What’s happened, and whats happending?
Essentially, today has marked one of the very few moments in the Brexit process that is clearly big. So often has it been the case that something has happened that we think is important, or game-changing and its sort of fizzled out into something not quite so seismic – today could be very different.
Essentially, after a day of debate and at the fourth time of asking, the House of Commons has given Boris Johnson the election he has been after for so long. Why the change? Labour this morning just after 11:00am announced that they had received assurances that their demands were met – i.e. everybody on both the UK and EU sides of the channel had accepted the extension of the Brexit process until the 31st January meaning that, for the short term at least, a no deal exit was definitively “off the table”. With the opposition onside and with two thirds of MPs needed under the Fixed Term Parliament Act to bring about an election, one was now almost certain. And so, it came to pass that the thrice rejected election that MPs had voted down as early as yesterday, will now take place on December 12th.
With that announcement by Labour this morning, the government had been pretty confident that it would get its way by tonight. Perhaps a sign of that was how ten of the twenty-one MPs booted out of the party for rebelling against Boris Johnson have been welcomed back (local MP Philip Hammond is not one of them). You could read this a number of ways. Perhaps it’s a goodwill gesture by the government, some have said they’ll be standing down at the next election anyway. Perhaps they’re scared of this election being close and don’t want to risk losing key seats to former Conservative MPs, and thus risk failing to get a majority. Perhaps though, they’re so confident of a win and then being able to push through their own version of Brexit they want as many people as possible back onside so once that’s done, they can ensure their own agenda gets implemented with minimal disruption. We’ll probably have to wait for a mix of the election results and the memoirs of Boris Johnson (or one of his staff) to know the answer.
What’s the likely outcome of the election?
God knows, campaigning hasn’t even begun!
Another minority government is a real possibility and were that to be the case there’s the risk we’ll end up in exactly the same situation as we are now. Perhaps then looking at the attitudes of the individual parties going into this might help to give a hint as to where we might end up.
The Conservatives will be hoping to bring home a thumping majority. After which they’ll probably use their emboldened position to get Boris Johnson’s deal through parliament. The dividing lines are already being drawn and there’s a chance we could end up with the campaign being Boris Johnson saying something along the lines of ‘parliament has done nothing but frustrate this process, give me a clear majority I’ll give you Brexit’. But this comes with a risk. To make your campaign about a single issue is, as Theresa May found out, fraught with risk. Because an election is so all encompassing with the areas it affects, they are usually decided on socio-economic matters. Brexit will likely be a major consideration for many, but the Conservative party would take a big risk to put all their eggs in that basket.
By contrast, Labour have been consistent with their message “for the many not the few” that adorns their website. That coupled with the what Jeremy Corbyn has been saying the last few days suggests their campaign will be about a lot more than just Brexit. They’ll want to echo and then build further upon the almost celebrity status that Jeremy Corbyn achieved in 2017 with the aim of ousting the Conservatives from power. They must tread carefully though as last time around they benefitted from their inspired use of social media to engage young voters and the infamous ‘Maybot’. Boris Johnson is far more charismatic than his predecessor and has a certain star-element of his own that attracts those outside of the party faithful, and the Conservatives will likely up their game on the social media front. There’s a fair amount of caution from within the party itself. One reason many Labour MPs were so reluctant to back an election was because of the enthusiasm of the other parties. They worry that should the Conservatives, Lib Dems and SNP have the success they all seem confident of, Labour will be the victim of their success.
Talking of the SNP and Lib Dems, both parties will be seeking to bolster their own positions. Should the SNP win big in Scotland they will push for another referendum on Scottish independence. With Scotland, a remain voting country, being forced to leave the EU with the rest of the UK, they feel that is enough to have turned people’s opinions. The Lib Dems meanwhile are thrilled by the number of MPs from other parties they’ve acquired since the last election and will be seeking to improve still further on their strong showings in both the European and local elections. They’ve been clear on their aim of stopping Brexit, and should Joe Swinson sweep to victory that will likely be her first order of business. Should the more likely outcome occur – i.e. they end up in opposition, although they hope with more MPs than they are at the moment – they will use their position to argue for another referendum. Both parties are ambitious, but where they will end up in the final results is anything but certain.
Notable by their absence in all of this is the Brexit Party. Nigel Farage has been uncharacteristically quiet. This might be because they’ve found themselves in a difficult position saying that Boris Johnson can’t be trusted and that his deal is not a proper version of Brexit. The problem is that, for many leavers, its not a bad version thus giving the Brexit party a difficult case to make. Once they’ve taken stock, we shall no doubt hear from them.
Regardless of their starting positions and their ultimate aims, anything could happen between now and polling day.
To conclude though, we should spare a thought for the real victims of this saga, who’s moment in the news has been obscured by parliament; the 30th Anniversary of Wallace and Gromit has been marked by the minting of a special 50p coin. If the thought of another election fills you with dread, perhaps being able to collect that will give you something to look forward too.
- 6th November: Parliament dissolved
- 21st November: likely deadline for you to register to vote. Final confirmation is needed
- 22nd November: likely deadline for new postal vote applications, or amendments to current ones. Final confirmation is needed
- 29th November: the likely deadline for proxy vote applications
- 12th December: Polling day
- 31st January: Brexit day (subject to the possibility of another extension…)
Featured image: secretlondon123 on Flickr