Politically, Remainers appear to have overplayed their hand by rejecting an election back in September. Doing so catalysed Johnson’s drive for a deal and they now find themselves staring at the possibility of Parliament ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement. This may be their last chance to stop Brexit, so the sooner Britain heads to the polls, the better for them.
And, of course, it allows both the SNP and the Lib Dems to humiliate Labour and force them into the pre-Brexit election that a large part of the party is desperate to avoid. The Opposition is abysmally low in the polls and needs the election to be about domestic policy, not Brexit.
– Say the right things, when electioneering –
But why is Johnson so keen to get on board? First of all, it’s a handy Plan B that gets him out of a corner. Second, as I wrote last week, it’s pretty apparent from No10’s behaviour that the PM would prefer a pre-Brexit election to a “triumphant” post-exit one.
Getting Brexit “done” has a broad national appeal that belies political nuance or complexity. Campaigning on a vision for Britain’s future relationship can only ever have a narrower appeal and risks reigniting divisions in the Tory party between the One Nation and arch-Brexiteer factions.
And political timing is as crucial as ever. Individual polls are often inaccurate, but trends tend not to be. The Tory lead across the polls is up three per cent since September, at 10 per cent, and Labour is in total disarray.
Rejecting the SNP-Lib Dem plan because it isn’t perfect risks letting Labour off the hook.
Something had to give. Has it now?
France has yielded on January 31 as an extension date, and Boris Johnson has reportedly come around to an SNP-Liberal Democrat election proposal – the pieces are falling into place for a December election.
– French surrender –
First the extension. A leaked draft of the plan places the new deadline on January 31, but allows the UK to leave on the first of any coming month if Parliament has ratified the Brexit deal in time. Ambassadors are meeting this morning to seal it.
The clincher for the French was reportedly a phone call from Johnson to Emmanuel Macron – that’s not how Downing Street had been selling the Prime Minister’s interventions.
– Help from an unlikely source –
On to the election plan. The PM had planned, and should still, hold a vote under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FTPA) this evening for an election on December 12, while granting an extra week to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
However, with the vote requiring a two-thirds majority of all MPs, abstentions included, to pass, he has little chance of succeeding.
Nevertheless, yesterday morning, the SNP and the Lib Dems launched a rival plan that would see the election happen on December 9. As an amendment to the FTPA, it would only require a simple majority thereby bypassing Labour’s objections, but is designed to be void if the EU offers only a short extension.
Ministers were initially scathing of the plan, calling it a “gimmick” on TV, but Johnson has apparently come round to it rather quickly. Our political editor, Gordon Rayner, has the full story of the rather rapid U-turn.
– What’s three days between enemies? –
But why quibble over three days? There are a few suggestions flying around such as students being at university. But it’s simpler than that. There’s a practical reason and a political one.
The practical is that restarting Parliament takes time. MPs must be sworn in, the Queen will have to give her speech again and so on. If an election is held on December 12, that process may not get going until January, leaving very little time for MPs to prevent no deal. If there is a hung parliament, it could be all the more complicated.
A December 9 election would allow the pomp and admin to take place this month.
TAP – right in the middle of the coldest winter on record (Grand Solar Minimum is happening right now- every 400 years the sun’s warmth declines rapidly and freezes the earth)