Theresa May’s stated rationale for wanting another general election so soon after the last one cannot withstand close scrutiny. She claims that her party needs a larger Commons majority in order to strengthen her hand in negotiations with the remaining twenty-seven countries of the Rump EU. She also claims that the opposition parties, Labour and the SNP, are causing her difficulties.
Neither of these claims hold water.
Mrs May already holds the best mandate possible. A majority vote of the UK electorate in favour of Brexit. Furthermore, she obtained the approval of the House of Commons to her government’s invoking Article 50, beginning an irreversible process of leaving the EU which must be completed in no more than two years – deal or no deal.
If the Rump 27 fail to come to an agreement on trade with Britain, then so be it. Let us see who comes off worse in such a scenario. Not that it would come to that, as Johnny Foreigner would blink first. As for the opposition parties in the Commons: has no one told Mrs May that it is the job of opposition parties to make life difficult for the government of the day? The clue is in the name – ‘opposition’. Opp-os-ition.
And as for the unelected House of Frauds, they have the power to delay the necessary business of government but not to prevent it.
The real reason Mrs May desires an early general election is twofold.
Firstly, the opinion polls put her party 21 points ahead of Labour, historically an unusually large lead for any party and particularly so for the governing party in mid-term of government. She and her advisers calculate that her government’s popularity can only diminish between now and 2020, the date of the next scheduled general election.
Secondly, Mrs May calculates that if she substantially increases her party’s majority in the House of Treason she will be less dependent on the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservatives. It would give her a free hand to water down Brexit to her heart’s content. Let’s not forget that she was a Remainer when Home Secretary in Cameron’s government, until the result of the Referendum was announced. In her heart of hearts she may remain a Remainer still.
But since the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, 2011, became law the prime minister no longer has the power to call a general election at a time of their own choosing, without first obtaining a more than two-thirds majority vote of all MPs in favour, which equates to 434 votes.
All Comrade Corbyn need do to scupper Theresa’s plan is instruct his MPs to vote against such a motion, abstain or absent themselves, which many of them will likely need little urging to do in any case. Or will we see the turkeys vote for an early Christmas? Watch this space.