Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
On April 8, Parliament approved a bill that forced Theresa May to request a Brexit extension, after it had passed the Commons by just one vote on April 3. On April 9, Theresa May’s proposed extension to June 30 was accepted by 420 votes to 110, though just 131 of the 313 Conservative MPs voted in favour, with the rest either abstaining or voting against.
On April 10, an emergency European leaders’ summit was held. The 27 European leaders, not including the UK, agreed to delay Brexit until October 31, with a June compliance review, and this extension was accepted by Theresa May. If the UK passes legislation to enable Brexit, they can get out earlier. In practice, such an early exit is unlikely, as Labour has little incentive to cooperate with the Conservatives in reaching a deal, and Theresa May’s Brexit deal has no chance of passing the Commons without support from at least 20 Labour MPs (it got five Labour MPs the last time).
Without an early exit, the UK will hold European elections on May 23; these elections will be held in Europe from May 23-26, but Thursday is the UK’s election day. Local government elections have been scheduled for May 2 for a long time, so the UK will be holding two major elections in three weeks. Recent polls have had the Conservatives slumping, and these polls were taken before today’s developments.
While the Commons was happier with a long-ish Brexit delay than any other option to resolve Brexit, the public will not be happy with Brexit debate continuing on and on! A YouGov poll recently gave respondents three options for what should be done by April 12: no-deal Brexit, Remaining or an extension. No-deal had 40% support, Remain 36% and an extension just 11%. Most Remain voters will settle for the long-ish extension, but, as I wrote earlier, Leave voters will feel more betrayed than they would had a soft Brexit been agreed, after been told for the last two years that Brexit would occur on March 29.
In December, May won a confidence vote among Conservative MPs by 200 votes to 117. Under Conservative rules, she has a year’s grace, and cannot be challenged again until this December. If May will not voluntarily resign, the one way for hard Leavers to remove her would be to join Jeremy Corbyn in voting no-confidence in their own government. After a successful no-confidence vote, the Commons has 14 days to vote confidence in a new government; if it does not, a new election is required. The major risk for hard Leavers from this course is that, with the Conservatives bitterly divided, a new election could well lead to PM Corbyn – the ultimate nightmare for the hard right.
If there is a vacancy in the Conservative leadership, MPs winnow the candidates down to two, and the membership decides between those two candidates. A January poll found that 57% of Conservative members wanted a no-deal Brexit, just 23% backed May’s deal and 15% Remain. A leadership election would likely result in a hard right MP winning.
Netanyahu wins Israeli election
At the Israeli election held on April 9, Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party won 35 of the 120 Knesset seats (up five since 2015) and the left-leaning Blue & White 35 (up 24). Explicitly religious and nationalist parties won 26 seats, giving Netanyahu a narrow path to a parliamentary majority even without the centrist Kulanu (four seats), which was part of the last government. Israeli Labor used to be the dominant party, but fell to just six seats (down 13). Including Kulanu, the right won 65 of the 120 seats. This will be Netanyahu’s fourth consecutive term.