It has been another busy week in Westminster with lots of political manoeuvring and procedural technicalities. However, the simple fact is that Britain will be trudging through the snow to vote in a General Election on the 12 December 2019.
General Election 2019
On Monday, Boris Johnson once again failed to gain a supermajority for a General Election under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. As a result, he introduced a short bill to call an election which, required just a simple majority. The bill passed both the Commons and the Lords with little opposition, so parliament will be dissolved on the 6 November and an election will be held on 12 December 2019, the first December election in a century.
Now that an election is certain, who is likely to win it? As with any election, it’s difficult to predict especially given the volatile nature of our politics and the realignment of political identities, with the Brexit divide becoming more important than party allegiances.
Currently, polls show the Conservatives have an 11% lead over labour with 36%, with the Liberal Democrats on 18% and the Brexit Party on 11%. However, it is worth noting that polls six weeks out from an election are essentially worthless, in 2017 Labour trailed in the polls by 20% which had decreased to 2% by election night.
Several factors will determine whether Johnson remains PM or Corbyn rises to power. The Tories could face a tough challenge from the Brexit party in some leave-majority seats, although currently leave voters are not defecting on mass to the Brexit party. Labour also face a similar challenge from the Liberal Democrats, who are attempting to steal the remain vote with their revoke Brexit policy. Although the Liberal Democrats may struggle as their legacy in coalition with the Tories causes distrust between them and the electorate especially amongst younger voters.
Both Johnson and Corbyn are seasoned campaigners and it will be a bitterly fought election. While Johnson will try and focus on his policy of implementing his already negotiated deal, Corbyn will want to shift the focus towards the last decade of Tory austerity and his ‘radical’ plan to transform the country. The terms on which this election is fought will likely determine its victor.
It is highly probable the election will return a hung parliament. This would inevitably result in Johnson’s resignation and the paralysis of the Brexit process would continue. If either party wins a majority, the Brexit path is slightly clearer, if Boris wins presumably his deal will be implemented and if Corbyn wins a second referendum shall follow. However, we will have to wait until manifestos are published to confirm what the parties’ official policies will be.
This General Election will be an exhilarating and historic campaign. Whatever the outcome the next few months will be turbulent, and Britain’s future remains uncertain.
Read more on the possible outcomes of the General Election and the future of Brexit in my article Brexit: What Now?
John Bercow Retires
On Thursday, after a decade in the role, John Bercow retired as House of Commons Speaker. MPs across the house paid tribute to Bercow’s commitment to enabling parliamentary scrutiny of the executive, his commitment to diversity in parliament and his support of LGBT rights.
The fact that Bercow has annoyed every government during his tenure is a testament to his suitability for the role. He has consistently enabled greater accountability of the executive through the use of urgent questions and emergency debates. Over the last decade, while the executive has attempted to consolidate their power, Bercow has relentlessly stood up for the rights of the House of Commons. He has served the Commons and the country with unwavering commitment and integrity and has unarguably changed politics for the better.
Tory Bedroom Tax
As Boris Johnson continues to preach the end to austerity, the European Court of Human Rights inflicted a devasting blow on the Tories. The court ruled that the ‘bedroom tax’, a cut to housing benefit for those with an extra bedroom, unlawfully discriminated against a victim of domestic violence and rape. After the police installed a panic room in her house, her housing benefit was cut by 14%. The judges ruled that the ‘bedroom tax’ had violated article 14 of the convention, the right against discrimination, and ordered the UK government to pay her £8,600 in damages. This case may prove troublesome for Johnson, as he tries to distance himself from the Tories’ decade of austerity, cases like this provide a constant reminder of the suffering caused by their policies.
Labour MP Keith Vaz Suspended
Following an investigation by the Common’s Standards Committee into allegations that the Labour MP Keith Vaz attempted to buy Class-A drugs and paid for sex in August 2016, the committee recommended that he be suspended from parliament for six months and be barred from obtaining a former member pass.
The committee report stated that Vaz showed a “disregard for the law, and by failing to co-operate fully with the inquiry process… he has caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons”. Diane Abbott, shadow home secretary, has called for his resignation, but the labour whip is yet to be withdrawn. The Commons agreed to accept the committee’s recommendations and Keith Vaz was formally suspended on Thursday evening, it is currently unclear whether he will stand for re-election.
Now the country will embark on one of the most unpredictable and historic election campaigns in decades. Next week, the political wrangling over a new speaker will begin and we will learn more about the parties’ policy ideas as the campaigns progress and the countdown to election day begins.