Category: Elections

Elections

Four ways Boris could fail, and in most of them Brexit fails with him

Professor Matthew Goodwin is the author of National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, which I have read and found good. As an academic he maintains an attitude of detachment but it is clear to me that he wants Brexit, partly from fear that if the referendum result is thwarted the result will be a resurgence of the nativist Right, who will have been shown to be correct in their claim that democracy is a sham.

Goodwin believes the most likely thing to happen in the next few months is that Boris Johnson will succeed in delivering Brexit and will win an election on the strength of having done that. In this article, “Boris Wins Big … Right?”, he details four scenarios that end very differently. I approve of that type of thinking.

One lesson of the past decade, as I usually point out in my talks, is that we should always challenge Groupthink. It’s not that I find the above implausible, because I don’t. If things do not change then Boris has a pretty good chance of winning a majority, albeit one that in my view will be much less spectacular than Twitter would have you believe. But it could also go very wrong and we should recognise that conventional wisdom has a dismal record. Long-time subscribers of this bulletin know that it is only by challenging Groupthink that we saw 2016 Leave victory coming. So where could it go wrong for Boris? Here are four things his team need to think about.

Of the four factors he cites, only the first two strike me as big risks. They are:

– 1. He fails to unify Leavers
– 2. Corbynomics remains popular

In all the hullabaloo about Brexit it is easy to forget that a generation has grown up who only know of Margaret Thatcher as a kind of Bogeywoman and who know nothing of the failures of socialism that caused her to be voted in. Corbynomics is indeed popular, more popular than Corbyn himself. Never forget that the hard Left was a vital part of the coalition that won the 2016 EU referendum.

Added later: I said I admired Goodwin’s willingness to think about how he could be wrong in his predictions and how things could go contrary to his desires. In contrast Polly Toynbee seems constitutionally unable to think for very long about uncongenial matters. She writes, “Only a government of national unity can deliver us from no deal”, without once mentioning the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems are as vital to the Remain coalition as the Hard Left are to the Leave coalition; to put forward the idea of a government of national unity (headed by Margaret Beckett of all people) that does not include them is to add an intra-Remain absurdity on top of the wider absurdity of proposing a government of “national unity” to force through something bitterly opposed by half the electorate, as a commenter called “Katherine1984” pointed out.

Lest I be revealed as unable to think of uncongenial things myself, let me say that unfortunately the Remain side includes many brains more flexible than Polly’s. Dominic Grieve, for one.

General election pacts

The outraged #NotMyPM twitterati think that new prime minister Boris Johnson should call a general election, since he was only put in place by a handful of silly old Tory party members and has no mandate. One problem with a general election is that the Brexit vote could be split between the Brexit Party and the Conservatives. So Nigel Farage has suggested there is the possibility of an electoral pact, whereby the Brexit Party does not contest all seats.

It would be fascinating if, for example, previously safe Labour seats went to TBP due Corbyn’s promise that the Labour party would back Remain. Or if votes were split between Labour and Lib Dems, since Jo Swinson has ruled out a pact.

Boris’s next moves will greatly impact the shape of the Great Realignment. Via the medium of electoral arithmetic, Nigel Farage will have a great deal of influence, I suspect.

What would Boris lose by calling an election timed to take place just AFTER 31 October?

There has been speculation everywhere that Boris Johnson will call an election in order to get a parliamentary majority to secure Brexit. Some have said he would need to make an agreement with the Brexit Party before the election, others that the pact would need to come afterwards – but most of what I have read seems to assume that the order of events in the plan is: Call election > Win election (possibly with help) > Leave EU.

Have I missed something? Because it seems to me that Mr Johnson would get a better shot at all his goals by calling an election timed to occur just after Brexit.

The entry for Dissolution of Parliament on Parliament’s own website says,

What happens to Parliament at dissolution?
Parliament is dissolved 25 working days before a general election at a minute past midnight.

The formal end to the parliamentary session is called ‘prorogation’. This may take place a few days before dissolution.

So Mr Grieve’s ingenious scheme to make it harder for Parliament to be prorogued is rendered void. While MPs are locked out of the building, the gears turn unimpeded and eventually the great or terrible hour strikes.

House of Commons
When Parliament is dissolved, every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant. All business in the House comes to an end. MPs stop representing their constituencies. There will be no MPs until after the general election.

And until after Brexit.

MPs can come into Parliament for a few days after dissolution to clear their offices.

Those who wish to be MPs again must stand again as candidates for election.

They will be standing and campaigning for a seat in the post-Brexit House. The whole political environment will be different, and much more favourable to the Conservatives. If Brexit seems inevitable, much of the justification for the Brexit Party’s existence melts away, and so does the incentive for pro-Remain parties to unite in an electoral pact to stop Brexit. To an exhausted electorate “Rejoin” is a much less appealing message than “Don’t leave”, and the attitude of the major opposition parties to it is more split. The Liberal Democrats would want it, but Labour, especially if Mr Corbyn is still at the helm, would probably be happy to kick it into the long grass as a vaguely worded aspiration.

Role of the Commons Speaker at dissolution

The Speaker is no longer an MP once Parliament is dissolved.

Like every other MP, the Speaker must stand for re-election. The Speaker will stand as ‘Speaker seeking re-election’.

However, the Speaker retains responsibility for the management of the House of Commons as they remain the chair of the House of Commons Commission until a new Speaker is elected.

In the circumstances I have described Mr Bercow’s long-delayed departure would be seen by the Tories as the icing on the cake.

It might be that Mr Johnson could be stopped from holding a general election by the opposition voting to deny the government the two thirds majority that the Fixed Term Parliament Act requires it to have to call an election. But when I try to imagine Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell going through the division lobbies to deny themselves the chance of power, or stranger yet to protest that they do indeed have confidence in a Johnson government, I cannot make the vision form.

I probably have missed something quite obvious. Tell me what it is and I will get on with my day.