Westminster is abuzz with talk of a general election taking place sometime later this year. The theory goes, Johnson can’t get no deal passed (or doesn’t really want it passed, deep down) before October 31st because parliament stands in his way. He has no choice but to go to the polls. Or, there is a vote of no confidence which brings an election on.
The 2019 general election would be the hardest to predict in the history of British democracy. There are several realistic scenarios that could play out, all of them wildly different from one another.
On the other hand, Brexit voters might not take kindly to another extension of the Article 50 period, whatever the explanation offered. You said October 31st, Boris, come what may. Come what may. And we’re still in the EU, with you making excuses for missing your deadline – I’m voting Farage. If this plays out in the minds of enough Leave voters, the election could be a disaster for Boris Johnson.
Yet here is the worst imaginable scenario for Johnson, one that would be the most hilarious thing ever: a Lib Dem majority or at least biggest party. It’s not as crazy as you think. Leave voters get split across Conservative, Brexit and Labour, while the Lib Dems hoover up the Remain vote given they will be the only party going into the election saying they will actually stop Brexit from happening. They would also be facing a Conservative party that has no deal as its official policy; how many Tory Remainers in key seats would lend the Lib Dems a vote as a one-off to prevent no deal from happening?
Then again, the Lib Dems could have yet another disappointing general election, like every one they’ve had since the merger. However bad Labour’s Brexit policy – and boy is it terrible – they have one trick up their sleeve that is gold: if you want to stop the Tories from winning, the only way to do so is to vote Labour. Look, we’re going to have a referendum or something when we win, right? And we’re not the Tories. Do you really want Boris Johnson to win?
A Labour majority is the least likely of all the imaginable scenarios – but you can’t totally rule it out. Corbyn ups his Remain cred a little and the Remain vote does a 2017 and piles in behind Left-Wing McBrexitface in a desperate attempt to stop the no deal Tory onslaught. It’s not out of the question by a long shot. More than any other election in living memory – and I do mean anyone’s living memory who is still breathing – so much will ride on the election campaigns. In a four horse race, whomever grabs the momentum early on will be key. Could be exciting. Could be terrifying. Could happen.
Paul W says
Any of this is possible. But on the LibDems a note of caution should be sounded. The LibDems underperformed in the 2005 general election. (I seem to recall reading that Sir John Curtice called it a missed opportunity at the time.) They underperformed in 2010 despite (or because of?) Cleggmania. And in 2015 and 2017 we all remember what happened.
Jim D says
The Lib Dems wouldn’t be the only destination for Remain voters: in England the vote would be split with the Greens and possibly the TiGs / ChangeUK (or whatever they’re called now). Plaid also support Remain in Wales, and likewise the SNP in Scotland. Plus Labour’s position is still ambiguous (deliberately so?) and could split the Remain vote further in certain constituencies.
A schop says
No brexit election means farage eats boris labour will hold its vote by playing the second referendum card which spikes the liberal vote
If need be corbyn gets his majority by having a love in with the snp by promising them another Indy vote
Votes might be split four ways in England but the SNP in Scotland would make it a five horse event at Westminster with no obvious route for putting together a government and very with very many MPs elected on much less than a third of the vote
I am not sure, but this could leave PM Johnson obviously unable to form a government, but with no one else able to do so either.
More likely, I think, is an earlier attempt to capitalise on Labour disarray with a General Election and using an election as the pretext for a request to extend Article 50. Some opinion polls have suggested that this could deliver a clear Tory majority.
I know the Conservative Party exists to cling on to power, however I cannot see why they would not want on this occasion to drop Brexit in the lap of Labour as a sure fire recipe for burying Labour for a very long time.
If Boris stabs the hard Brexiteers in the back a number will permanently defect to Farage, but to what extent will this be mitigated by the fact that his image/style appeals to right-wingers?
Boris’ appeal isn’t based on his substance (he has none) but the idea that he’s an entertaining man of the people that only po-faced lefties could dislike.
This perception, among people who pay little attention to politics, could survive anything he actually does; I hope he moves towards a more sane course on the EU, and while this could cause him to lose support to Farage, I think he will still command more right-wing support than Cameron or May ever did, as the sort of floating voter he hopes to appeal to cares more about perception than anything he may or may not do.