I’ll admit that I am still hoping for a general election in 2019, although I think the possibility of it is fading quickly. Corbyn doesn’t want to ram it through against the will of the PLP – although I do think he wants an election, as it is the only way for him to avoid having to do things that are worse from his perspective. A second referendum hangs around like a terrible possibility and he has to pretend he wants one while thwarting it. It must be exhausting; much better to get into his campaigning element, fighting for his socialist vision of the future in a GE. He either wins and becomes prime minister or loses and refuses to quit until Long-Bailey or some other flunky manages to be guaranteed to walk into the leadership. Either way, he doesn’t have to face a referendum that will destroy his project completely.
What’s depressing is that both the government and the opposition seem to be bluffing each other on the GE front. The government is talking up wanting an election, bringing it to a vote on Monday, when they don’t really want one. Yes, the Tories are way ahead in the polls, and yes, Corbyn’s personal ratings are abysmal. Yet the idea of going to the electorate before Brexit is “done” in any way that even they can pass off such a concept is tricky. Farage looks a little defeated at the moment, yet the Tories have thought this before only for him to come roaring back loud and strong. To underestimate Farage’s influence on Leave voters would be foolish. Meanwhile, across the way, Labour are saying they will vote for an election when no deal Brexit is “taken off the table” (they really like metaphorical tables, don’t they?). And the only way that no deal Brexit could really be eliminated as an immediate threat is to revoke Article 50, which they are not in favour of doing.
So, if we don’t have a general election, what happens next? The government has said they will “go on strike”, which is a little rich. “We won’t do all that stuff you specifically don’t want us to do” isn’t much of a threat to the opposition. The big problem for Remainers is that even if the EU does extend the Article 50 period to January 31st, pulling another Benn Act out of the hat in the new year is far from guaranteed. The new speaker might not be so flexible in terms of what he will allow the opposition to do. No deal Brexit could loom pretty large in January, with no way for the opposition to stop it without a speaker willing to let them. What happens then is anyone’s guess. A no deal Brexit destroys Johnson’s premiership reasonably quickly, but extending again might be too politically risky for him at the same time. He might be forced to go through with it.
At least a general election would allow us all to get to the next phase of Brexit, the gift that keeps on giving. But no, we are confined to purgatory for a little longer from the looks of things.