Could Theresa May be plotting another snap election?

14 Feb 2019

 

 

Reports circulating on Twitter that the Prime Minister might be planning to call an election in early May are raising eyebrows - after all, we all know how well it went for her last time - but could there be method in her madness? Despite the risk, there are a number of reasons why an early vote could be on her mind.

 

 

Breaking the deadlock

 

The current Brexit impasse in Parliament may be in large part down to May’s disastrous 2017 election, but a fresh one might be her only way out. The Tories lost thirteen seats last time around, leaving them reliant on DUP votes to remain in power.

 

With the political divisions in her own party scuppering Brexit progress, an election could give May the votes she needs to bolster support for her Withdrawal Agreement and avoid a disastrous No Deal Brexit.

 

 

Ahead in the polls

 

An extensive YouGov Poll, published earlier this week, suggests the Conservatives stand to benefit from a General Election. According to the poll, the Tories, the SNP and the Lib Dems would all gain seats at the expense of Labour, who could be set to lose more than a dozen.

 

When asked who would make the best Prime Minister, 40% of the public backed Mrs May, compared to just 19% who preferred Corbyn. Whilst a staggering 39% of the population remain unsure, these results do not look promising for Labour.

 

May might see an election as an opportunity to expose the lack of clarity in Labour’s Brexit policy, and position her own as the only credible option. Whilst this small gain wouldn’t be nearly enough to solve her Brexit woes entirely, it would certainly strengthen May’s position, dividing opposition parties at the same time.

 

 

Extending Article 50

 

With No Deal as the default result of the stalled Brexit process, and with almost 600 statutory instruments that still need to be passed by Parliament before the end of March, an election could allow the government to call for an extension of Article 50.

 

The European Union have made it clear that they will not accept an extension unless there is a legitimate reason to do so, repeatedly stating that they will not agree to one just to give the Prime Minister more negotiating time. An election would provide May with just such a reason, and could give her much-needed time to break the deadlock in Parliament, and pass key legislation.

 

 

Would she really?

 

All this is, of course, simply speculation that is circulating around Westminster. Mrs May will be mindful of her previous snap election disaster - one of the most poorly-run election campaigns in recent memory - and wary of the fact that victory this time would be by no means guaranteed.

 

The Tories could find themselves in an even more precarious situation than in 2017 and would not have the element of surprise; Labour have long professed that they are ready to fight an election, and have been preparing their campaign since well before Christmas.

 

And to top it all, it was May herself, just two months ago, who staved off a rebellion in her party by promising her own MPs that she would not lead them into the next election.

 

The Prime Minister would never reassure people that she was going to do one thing, and then simply change her mind and do the opposite...

 

...Would she?

 

A Backbench Report by James Plumb

 

 

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