I had been wondering for some time just how much longer Prime Minister Theresa May could put off seeking a snap General Election in the wake of all the derailing threats that other parties were making in the Commons, more especially in the Lords, and elsewhere in the country regarding the Brexit process. Although I wasn't exactly expecting it to happen, I had been watching daily for signs of a change of heart from the PM's previous position.
It has now happened, in a clear-cut case of cause-and-effect. If the others had not behaved as they did (and still are) then this would not have become necessary. It is as simply and correctly stated as that. The election will be held on 8 June, just seven weeks from tomorrow.
Because of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, this has necessitated a Motion to be voted on in the House of Commons, and Royal assent after that. The first hurdle was completed a few hours ago as I write this, with well over 500 MPs agreeing to the General Election, and just 13 (nine of them Labour) MPs voting against. This comfortably exceeds the requirement of at least 2/3 of the full House assenting – the minimum thus being 434 out of the 650.
The general assumption is that the Conservatives will hugely increase their majority, which was just 12 seats after the previous election. I believe top psephologist Michael Thrasher (of Thrasher & Rallings fame) anticipates an overall majority of something like 120 or so. My own estimate, just for the record, is 165 plus-or-minus 9% of that figure: in effect, between 150 and 180.
A new spanner in the works, though – if it goes ahead – is a move to create an 'unholy alliance' of main opposition parties (Labour Lib Dems, SNP, perhaps Green) to field just one cross-party candidate in each target Conservative seat, so that all the non-Conservative votes will (they think) go to that candidate. As many Conservative MPs were elected with less than 50% of the actual vote, this suggests that the one significant opponent could take the seat, ultimately depriving Mrs May of an overall majority.
Thus goes the theory, demonstrating one-dimensional thinking in the process. Of course we can ignore fringe candidates like the perennial 'Save the NHS' and others of a similar nature, as well as the likes of TUSC and the always-entertaining Official Monster Raving Looney participants. This is nitty-gritty stuff. On the other hand, there is also UKIP, but their influence is waning.
If this scheme should go ahead, it makes two fatal errors: (1) that the electorate will vote the same way they did last time, or in the current polls, polarised into voting for any candidate who is not-Conservative regardless of party designation. The news is that they will not: people are already declaring wholesale that they will vote Conservative this time. Number (2) is the same for UKIP voters from last time and who have stated so to pollsters: they too are switching in large numbers to the Blue candidate.
Thus such an approach seems likely (I think certain) to fail; and if anything it will probably result in Mrs May gaining an even larger overall majority than my seemingly optimistic estimate. I say 'estimate' because – as those who have followed my prediction will know by now – I don't make any firm predictions until I know who is on the ballot paper, the day the Statements of Persons Nominated are published.
That is how I have been able to be so devastatingly accurate in the past…