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Early General Election could irrevocably legitimise Brexit

July 13, 2016

Amid the breathless whirl of events which today sees Theresa May start work as Prime Minister there is an increasing clamour for an early General Election. All very understandable, if rather predictable, from opposition parties but many of the demands come from those most keen to prevent Brexit.

Theresa_May

May: Brexit Means Brexit would be a powerful message at an early General Election

They are dangerously misguided if they think a snap General Election would somehow prevent the UK from leaving the EU. If there is any prospect along the potentially long and wildly unpredictable path towards Brexit of pausing and reconsidering it would almost certainly evaporate if we have a General Election in the next few months. By far the most likely outcome would be an increased Tory majority, legitmising the new Prime Minister’s declaration that “Brexit means Brexit”.

Opinion polls may be rather discredited at the moment but they are still showing a consistent Tory lead and the prospect of the well-organsised and experienced May giving that lead a boost in the early months of her Premiership have to be very high. Add to that the huge financial resources the Tories are able to call on and without doubt they would be in pole position and virtually impossible to dislodge.

Labour is in meltdown. If it gets through the autumn without splitting it will be a minor miracle. It is in no position to fight a General Election and there must be an element among the Tory Party that would love to call Labour’s bluff and go to the country.

It is hard to see a change of leader making much difference to Labour’s prospects. In many areas Corbyn is popular, as the resilience of the Labour vote in local elections this year has shown, and neither of the challengers looks remotely capable of enthusing large numbers of voters to return to Labour. Whoever was in charge would probably be looking at a loss of 30 to 50 seats. Predictions of a wipeout in parts of the country are almost certainly over-stated but Labour’s vulnerability is obvious.

The Tories would pick up some seats at Labour’s expense, more than enough to offset their likely losses to the Liberal Democrats. Strongly pro-EU areas such as south west London where the Liberal Democrats lost several seats last year could easily return to the Lib Dem fold and a squeeze on a soft Labour vote should deliver them gains elsewhere.

In Scotland it is hard to see much change from SNP dominance, although the gradual recovery of the Tories there could bring them one or two unexpected victories.

Wales would be interesting. The Valleys voted Leave and how they would react to having a pro-EU Labour campaign, alongside an even stronger pro-EU Lib Dem and Plaid Cymru would be interesting. It would most likely end up with the three parties exchanging some seats but have little impact on the overall balance at Westminster.

Then there is UKIP. Unpredictable in the extreme with no leader and not even an agreed process for finding a new one. It is likely to see its best prospects of success as lying in those areas strongly supporting Leave where it has positioned itself as the alternative to Labour. With the Tories campaigning on a “Brexit means Brexit” platform UKIP’s ability to dent the Tory vote would be limited. Labour would lose seats to UKIP.

And if the Tories somehow fell short of an overall majority they would be far more likely to turn to a Farage-less UKIP as potential coalition partners than the Lib Dems again.

Of course, this is all speculation and the current volatility of British politics could render much of this analysis invalid in an instant but I do think that is is close to the most likely outcome, one that would move Brexit from a probability to a certainty.

On top of that, the additional uncertainty of a General Election campaign would be another blow to business and consumer confidence and further increase volatility in the financial markets which few, apart from fleet-footed traders, benefit from.

From → Politics

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