Do We Really Want An Election?

The two main parties have traditionally both been broad churches. They’ve had to be - it was the only way to win. A narrowly defined ideology will only get so many votes, and the rest would go to the other side.

The result, as we know, is left versus right. Attempts to gain significant ground in the centre have struggled to break the old system. In recent years we’ve seen changes - first, both parties took a step towards the centre to win more votes from moderates. Then, while Labour were throwing themselves back to the far left, the Tories were at risk of shedding votes to the far right, and in a painfully misguided attempt to head this off, Cameron took us into a referendum we’ve never managed to get out of. The Tories have trudged steadily rightwards ever since.

Where does it end? If parliament agrees to an election this side of Christmas then we’ll find out soon enough. But the recent changes show a clear trend.

Theresa May came into the 2017 term with 317 seats. Since then, Charlie Elphicke was sacked (twice) over sexual assault allegations. Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston quit to form a new party. Allen and Wollaston ended up with the Lib Dems.

Nick Boles quit in frustration over Brexit and is now independent. Phillip Lee hilariously crossed the floor to join the Lib Dems while Johnson was mid-rhetoric. Amber Rudd also resigned the whip. And, of course, 21 Tories were sacked for voting against No Deal and now sit as independent conservatives.

In summary, that’s a grand total of 28 MPs that were voted in as Conservatives at the last election but are Tory no more.

What happens to their seats? Time will tell. Unless any are accepted back into the fold (assuming they wish to be) the Tory party will put forward new candidates for those seats. Those candidates are likely to be pro-Brexit. A good number of them may be on the far right and rather keen on the idea of No Deal. Even those that aren’t so enthusiastic are probably going to be more accepting of it than the current crop of ex-Tory moderates.

In short, if those seats remain blue, and Johnson holds on to his existing set of MPs, that’s 28 more than he’s got now, and they’ll all be willing to support this dismally poor deal.

But more alarmingly still is that makes it far more likely the deal would go through without amendments. And without amendments, the Withdrawal Agreement is set up to fail. Parliament won’t be able to force an extension to free trade discussions. Johnson can take us out of the EU without a trade agreement in December 2020. And he will have significant support in parliament for this outcome.

There’s no majority for No Deal from the electorate. Almost all economists agree it would be immensely damaging. And yet, a general election retains this outcome as a sizeable possibility.

Nevertheless, those parties opposed to Johnson’s deal are left with a poor range of options in front of them. The alternative is to attempt to push for a final referendum on the current deal. If that push fails, their position is weakened, and they go into a general election with Johnson having momentum. Recently it hasn’t looked like there was enough support for a referendum. That may change if Johnson shelves the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

One hopes that MPs will be doing what MPs do best – holding sneaky conversations and striking deals behind closed doors. But if there still aren’t the numbers for a referendum then a general election really is the only way out of this mess, whatever your Brexit desires may be.

And if it comes to that, perhaps the most important action the rest of us can take is encouraging all around us to register to vote, and to turn up at the polling station on the day. Whatever the result, the only hope for future unity is if the outcome actually does represent the will of the people. I just hope the people aren’t willing on a Tory party taking an even bigger leap towards the right.
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Published on October 23, 2019 02:58 Tags: boris, brexit, election, johnson, politics
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