“What do we want?”
“A general election!”
“When do we want it?”
“Not now, please. 2020 at the earliest.”
I know the final line doesn’t exactly fit in with the ones that preceded it, I have the feeling that most people feel like that. But there are indications that Theresa May is indeed thinking of going to the country long before the next scheduled election in 2020. Based on little evidence, I think there is a fair chance she will call an election for 4 May 2017.
If you were Theresa May, why wouldn’t you call an election now? She has a small parliamentary majority but a huge lead in the opinion polls. Yes, we know that polls can be wrong but when they are wrong they usually exaggerate Labour’s strength and in a campaign where, as the Observer’s Nick Cohen pointed out yesterday, their campaign would be led by Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott I would expect that Labour’s share of the vote would plummet still further.
Calling an election would be a cynical and opportunistic move by May, but we should not be surprised by this for here is a woman who was, until 23 June 2016, a pro-European “remainer” who has magically morphed into a vociferous hard Brexiteer in the name of political expediency.
There is absolutely no doubt that the Conservatives would win and win “bigly”, as Donald Trump once put it. Scotland is lost to Labour for the foreseeable future, maybe forever, outside the big cities Labour is in serious trouble and these awkward realities are nothing when you add the pitiful state of party in parliament. No one outside Corbyn’s fan club believes he has a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming prime minister and virtually everyone outside it believes Labour will be obliterated whenever May goes to the country. May has one very good reason for striking early. Europe.
It is likely that next week, May will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty with the aim of imposing the hardest of Brexits on the country. Even the most anti EU campaigners accept that leaving the EU will be complex and messy and may well last longer than the two years provided. What better for the Tories to trigger Article 50, win a landslide election on 4 May 2017, which will give May an additional couple of years of wiggle room to try and sort out the mess that will ensue? The hope will be that the country will have stabilised by 2022 and she will win again. May has all the ammunition to call an election now:
– She could say she wants her own mandate having taken over from David Cameron without an election
– She could add that she wants a mandate from the public to vindicate her pursual of the hardest form of Brexit
– She could effectively destroy Labour and Ukip at a stroke and give the Tories decades of uncontested elections
What would you do?
Going to the country would also help the Tories plough on with their austerity agenda for at least an additional two years. Given that over 50% of George Osborne’s public spending cuts haven’t yet been implemented by May, she could get the worst aspects of the pain out of the way in the first couple of years of her new term in office. The Tories could flog off more of the NHS, especially to the big business friends of May’s new best friend, Donald Trump, they could take an ideological axe to everything about the public sector they hate so much, all with no opposition from the remnants of the Labour Party and cheer led by the right wing red top newspapers.
If you think Labour is divided now, just wait until you see what is coming down the road from the hard left Momentum group, led by Bennite Jon Lansman who are seeking to divide and destroy the Labour Party as we know it. They have now said as much. Anyway, the comrades of the hard left don’t want to win elections anyway: they prefer the purity of distant opposition, regardless of how this affects the very people they purport to support.
Nothing has changed my mind that Theresa May is hopelessly out of her depth as prime minister but she is almost Churchillian compared to the bumbling ineptitude of Labour’s woeful leader Jeremy Corbyn. He is so bad he makes her look good, an incredible feat.
I don’t know if May will go to the country but I have this sneaking feeling that when she triggers Article 50 she might also call a general election. I have a distant dream that somehow Labour might ditch Corbyn, and all the hard left comrades who surround him, and somehow become a party of meaningful opposition and eventually enter government. If May goes early to the polls, Labour takes a major, maybe the final, step to oblivion. Some people of the left might even welcome an early election to put them out of their misery because it might encourage the Labour Party to come to its senses. I don’t buy that, I’m afraid.
Only the Conservatives can win a general election now and in the foreseeable future. Why would May not want to get her own mandate and consign the opposition to the dustbin of history, if it isn’t there already? I’d like her to hang on until 2020, just in case. I can’t imagine why she’d want to.