One of the mainstays of each of the Tory candidates for prime minister has been a vocal ruling out of a general election any time soon. Labour in particular, but everyone one else for that matter, should be aware that not only does this not mean that there won’t be another general election sometime in the next twelve months, the Tories ruling it out at this stage makes it more likely to happen.
Everyone in Westminster remembers the last time we were in a situation in which a sitting prime minister resigned during a parliament – look what happened to Gordon Brown in 2007. There was endless speculation regarding whether he’d hold an election once he moved into Number 10. He allowed the talk on this to roll on to the point where the speculation became overwhelming. When he didn’t call it in the end, he paid a heavy price for it in 2010.
So the Tories are playing it smarter this time, eliminating any speculation on the subject as a group. There may be fractures within the Conservative Party at present, but this one would have been reasonably easy for everyone to agree to sing from the same hymn sheet regarding. If the next Tory cabinet deem a general election necessary (or better still, advantageous) at some point down the line, they can try and call one then. It will be better if comes as a surprise, in other words.
For those thinking that the Tories can’t say they won’t hold an election now and then renege on that later, I can give you 350 million reasons why that isn’t the case but I’ll stick with simply the most crucial one: the electorate never gets upset if you tell them they need a say in the matter.
This is a real problem for Labour. Talks are being had now around allowing Corbyn to leave “with grace”; to let him stay on as Labour leader for some unspecified amount of time prior to the supposed date of the next general election. If this happens and it looks like Corbyn is hanging around for a while, the Tories would be daft not to try and call and election – something they are aware of. Because of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, Labour can stand in the way of this – but they will pay a heavy price for doing so the next time they have to face a general election. It would undermine Corbyn’s national position even further, if such a thing is even logistically possible.
So I think we’re more likely than not to have a general election within the next twelve months. If Labour turned itself around quickly with a new leader the Tories were scared would actually hold them to account again, or there was a split and the new centre-left party managed to look formidable very quickly, then the Tories might hold off. But given the balance of probabilities is against either of those things happening, get ready to go to the polls again, probably next Spring.