Boris Johnson Headed For A Snap Election?
It looks as if Boris Johnson's government could be looking to call for a snap election to he held in the immediate aftermath of Brexit.
Boris Johnson has been British Prime Minister for just over two weeks and the signs are growing that he’s already poised to roll the political dice and call a snap election:
Boris Johnson’s chief of staff cancelled all leave for government advisers until 31 October in a missive on Thursday night, raising further speculation the government is planning for a forced snap election in the aftermath of the UK leaving the EU with no deal.
Special advisers were emailed by Johnson’s senior adviser Edward Lister on Thursday night, saying there was “some confusion about taking holiday”. They were told none should be booked until 31 October, with compensation considered “on a case by case basis” for those who had already booked leave, though the email said advisers were free to spend their weekends “as you wish”.
“There is serious work to be done between now and October 31st and we should be focused on the job,” the email said. The directive angered many recipients, who say staff are exhausted and are facing an unprecedented workload in September and October.
One recipient described the email as “posturing” and said special advisers, known as “spads”, are being used as part of the PR war to convince the public the government is serious about no deal.
Johnson himself also wrote to all members of the civil service telling them the government’s main focus was now to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. In the letter, Johnson said he wanted to underline that the UK would be leaving on 31 October “whatever the circumstances” and that the civil service must prepare “urgently and rapidly” as its top priority.
“I know many of you have already done a great deal of hard work in mobilising to prepare for a no deal scenario, so that we can leave on 31 October come what may,” the letter said.
“Between now and then we must engage and communicate clearly with the British people about what our plans for taking back control mean, what people and businesses need to do, and the support we will provide.”
Downing Street refused to deny on Thursday that a snap election would need to take place in the first few days of November if MPs forced a vote of no confidence in Johnson in early September, but said the prime minister would ensure the UK had left the EU on 31 October.
It remains unclear if anti-Brexit MPs in parliament would be able to swerve a general election, as senior Labour and Liberal Democrat figures clashed on Friday over their parties’ apparent willingness to place conditions on any unity government or coalition prepared to stop a no-deal Brexit.
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has said Labour would attempt to form a government in the 14 days following a confidence vote, to try to avoid a snap election, but ruled out Labour backing for any unity government candidate, such as a Tory veteran like Ken Clarke or Dominic Grieve.
Labour has said any MP wishing to stop no deal should give their backing to Jeremy Corbyn’s attempt to form a government. However, on Friday the Lib Dem Chuka Umunna, a former Labour MP, claimed a “substantial minority” of his former colleagues would not support Corbyn being prime minister.
“The problem there is with the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn taking up the role of leading an emergency government is he cannot command a majority among his own MPs, never mind others like Conservative rebels who would refuse to give him confidence,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I know, because I have spoken to them. There is a substantial minority of Labour MPs at the very least who simply would not countenance Jeremy Corbyn being the prime minister of this country. So the question is, is there a figure who, as an alternative, could command a majority?”
McDonnell tweeted after Umunna’s comments that the Lib Dems appeared willing to risk no deal rather than back Labour.
This report from The Guardian is referring to the possibility of a snap election in the immediate aftermath of a Brexit, whether that happens under the terms of what at this point seems to be an elusive deal that a majority in Parliament will approve or in the form of a no-deal “hard” Brexit. That would mean that he’d likely call the election sometime in late September or early October and that the election would occur in mid-November at some point before the holiday season. The obvious gamble here would be that Johnson and the Conservatives would be able to benefit sufficiently from what they anticipate to be a post-Brexit euphoria with the Tories running on a message that says they delivered on the promise to see Brexit through to the end. If it works, then Johnson would perhaps be able to increase the Conservative majority in the House of Commons to the point where it would not be necessary to enter into the current agreement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party that is currently keeping them in power. The other possibility, of course, is that the Tories could lose even further ground in Parliament to the point where they can’t form a government.
There also seems to be a possibility that Labour and the Liberal Democrats, along with anti-Brexit Conservatives, could try to force a no-confidence vote in the current government that would either force an election before the October 31st Brexit date or lead to the creation of some kind of unity government. The biggest hang-up in that effort though appears to be objections to the idea of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister, something that even some Labour MPs are opposed to. the idea of a Prime Minister Corbyn. If the potential plotters can’t get beyond that hang-up then they are unlikely to be able to push Johnson out prior to the end of October. Furthermore, even if they did succeed, it’s hard to see what they could do to stop the Brexit process at this point. The deadline is in place and unlikely to move again. Brexit will happen. The only question is whether it will be of the “hard” or “soft” variety. What happens after that is anyone’s guess.