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.