Is a Tory majority a price worth paying for a softer Brexit?

23 Apr 2017

After Parliament voted for a general election on June 8th, the Conservative Party, we are told, is going to clean up.


With Labour trailing by 21 points, the move to trigger an early election this year could certainly be argued to have been motivated by political opportunism, rather than being in the national interest. After all, the Prime Minister herself told us for months that there would be no early election.


For those of us in Labour circles, or on the left of the political spectrum, it’s an odd situation to be in. The early signs are awful. I’ve previously written about the shock of Labour losing once safe seats like Copeland to the Tories, and if the polls are any indication, there seems no sign of that phenomena abating.


May could leave the party in its worst position since Maggie in 1984. But just as the green shoots that culminated in 1997 were sown in Labour’s defeat fourteen years earlier, Theresa May might just have cut short Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership by three years. I say maybe, because who knows anymore with him, he could leave Labour with 100 seats and probably still cling on.


But this isn’t about Corbyn for once, because the odd situation this staunch Labourite finds himself in currently, is wondering whether a Theresa May landslide might not be such a bad thing after all. Hear me out.


This election, rather than destroying the Labour Party, is seemingly all about Brexit.


In her statement on Tuesday, the Prime Minister claimed: “If we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing will continue” and that “division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit”.

The Home Secretary Amber Rudd  has been one of Theresa May’s closest allies since before she entered Number 10, and was very much on anti-Boris, anti-Brexit duty during the referendum campaign last year. According to The Huffington Post:


'Amber Rudd, the ever-so candid Home Secretary, appeared to let the cat out of the bag on Newsnight last night. Asked directly if a bigger majority would strengthen the PM’s hand to face down her own Brexiteers, Rudd replied: "What I can say is it certainly gives her an opportunity - if she gets what we hope she’ll get, a good majority - the opportunity to arrive at potential compromises within the EU"’.


Moreover, Politico had this reaction from an anonymous EU official: “The chances for a good outcome of the Brexit negotiations have just gone up tremendously, instead of being at the mercy of the Brexiteers, May will now get a very, very strong mandate that will allow her to negotiate a reasonable deal with the EU”.


Also, the pound reacted strongly to the Prime Minister’s announcement, jumping over 2.5% to a five-month high against the dollar.


It’s often easy to forget that, before their rhetoric about increased immigration controls and creating migrant databases, May and Rudd were both Remainers. Could this be the clearest indication yet that the Prime Minister might try to orchestrate a softer kind of Brexit?


A larger Tory majority, coupled with potential support from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, could potentially act as a buffer against the hard-Brexiteers in May’s own ranks. With her wafer-thin majority of just twelve, the likes of Steve Baker, Bill Cash and Suella Fernandes wield a lot of influence when it comes to Brexit, but an election landslide could change all that. Contrary to The Daily Mail's assertions, the saboteurs of May’s premiership are far likelier to be the ‘bastards’ in her own party than those on the opposite side of the House.


As hard as Labour will rightfully try to make it about the NHS, education, social care and all the other issues in 21st Britain, this election seems set to be defined by just one. Brexit is likely to be the biggest political event of the next twenty years.


The current calculation that’s going through my head is whether preventing a cadre of lunatics in the Tory Party from achieving a seemingly disastrous exit from the EU is worth another five years of a Conservative government. Perhaps it might be.



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