Brexit minus eight weeks: is it election time?

What’s next in the Brexit gridlock, plus updates from Italy and the Democratic race in the US. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

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.

To try to ensure Boris Johnson follows Parliament’s laws, it needs to be sitting in late October, and not be dissolved for an election.

On September 3, the Commons changed the order of business to allow legislation opposing a no-deal Brexit to be debated by 328 votes to 301. As a result, the 21 Conservative MPs who opposed the government were kicked out of the Conservative party and will not be able to stand as Conservative candidates at the next election.

On September 4, the legislation passed the Commons comfortably, and has gone to the House of Lords, where it will pass easily. Boris Johnson attempted to call an early election, but won far fewer votes than the two-thirds majority needed to dissolve parliament.

Once this legislation clears Parliament and receives royal assent (expected on Monday), the question is whether Labour should support an early election. No other party can give Johnson the two-thirds majority he needs. Although a simple majority could pass legislation setting the election date, that legislation would also have to go through the Lords before prorogation. According to The Guardian, Jeremy Corbyn is poised to reject Johnson’s October 15 election.

Once Parliament is dissolved, Johnson could call the election for November 1 – the day after Brexit – and refuse to implement Parliament’s legislation attempting to force him to request a Brexit extension. The right-wing British newspapers and a large share of the public would applaud Johnson if he blatantly broke the law in this way. This applause would be very different from most cases where politicians flagrantly break laws. Johnson said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than extend Brexit.

If Johnson honours the October 15 election, his message would be simple: Vote Conservative to stop all the Brexit talk after October 31. Corbyn would have a more complex message on Brexit that would probably not appeal. At the 2017 election, Brexit was a comparatively minor issue. Asked which would be worse in a poll, 43% selected Corbyn becoming PM, while 35% chose a no-deal Brexit.

On October 14, the Queen reopens Parliament. On October 17-18, there is a European Union summit – the last chance to make a deal before Brexit day. If Johnson does not make a deal with the EU, or request an extension, and Parliament is still sitting, it is likely he would face a successful no-confidence vote. If the Commons did not vote for confidence in a new government by October 31, Britain would crash out.

In this scenario, an election would take place several weeks after a no-deal Brexit. My view is that people will not turn against Brexit until they are personally inconvenienced. A no-deal Brexit is likely to cause significant inconvenience. An election held several weeks after a no-deal Brexit will probably result in a Labour landslide and PM Corbyn.

Another scenario is that the Commons elects Corbyn or someone else to be PM, request an extension and hold an election. Corbyn is unlikely to allow someone else to be PM so close to an election, and many Conservative rebel MPs would still prefer no-deal to Corbyn. If, despite these problems, Corbyn became PM before an election, he could enact some of his popular policies by executive order, and use these policies as an election platform. Labour would never have done so well in 2017 if Corbyn did not have popular policies.

Trump trails leading Democrats by record margins; far-right Salvini loses power in Italy

I wrote for The Conversation on September 5 that Donald Trump trails the leading Democrats in a Quinnipiac poll by far bigger margins than any previous incumbent president at this point – sourced from CNN analyst Harry Enten. Joe Biden still leads the Democratic primary despite one outlier poll.

In Italy, there was a coalition between the far-right League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. I wrote for my personal website on September 4 that League leader Matteo Salvini broke this coalition to force early elections, but the Five Stars allied with the centre-left Democrats to form a new government. Also covered: Israeli polls ahead of the September 17 election, and the far-right surges in two German state elections.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

110 comments on “Brexit minus eight weeks: is it election time?”

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  1. Corbyn almost certainly won’t get a majority in his own right. But he doesn’t need to to form government. All that is needed is for Tories + DUP to not have a majority, and a Corbyn led coalition with the Lib dems, SNP, PC etc is suddenly in play.

    Things are so volatile now, that such a scenario is about as likely as any other. Literally no one has a clue how it will go down – least of all Tom Watson and his merry band of undermining wreckers. So he obviously can’t risk an election and the chance for Corbyn to form government.

  2. “Tom Watson just doing what Tom Watson does best – undermining Corbyn. He doesnt want an election because he fears labour under Corbyn might win.”

    I doubt that very much.

    Corbyn is electoral poison.

  3. Another good summary.

    The folks in the EU (remember them?) are getting noticed, and it doesn’t look any easier for the UK.

    And an Ireland Only Backstop would essentially give the finger to the DUP, who provide a critical number of MPs for the government. Could that have been the reason for the prorogue? Without a parliament in session what damage could the DUP do?

    If so, then I see
    * Lib-Dems promoting themselves as the No-Brexit party
    * Labour promoting themselves as the Brexit-With-A-Deal party
    * Brexit Party is the No-Deal-Brexit party
    * Tories become the Brexit-We’re-Trying party

    The Lib-Dems and Brexit Party are being opportunistic, Labour are shoring up their support (and will probably lose votes), and the Tories might fragment. But is it credible? UK politics is all about Brexit.

    There is nothing else.

    Farage gets this. Unless a “Remain Party” appears there is no real opposition. The Lib-Dems are too conflicted internally for them to become this, and who else is there? So despite talk today of a EU approved Ireland-only Backstop, I still see a no-deal Brexit on October 31, followed by an election say in early 2020 (timing is important) giving a Brexit/Tory majority and a Lib-Dem/Labour minority.

  5. Late Riser

    “But is it credible? UK politics is all about Brexit.

    There is nothing else.”

    Well Brexit is the all consuming immediate issue at the moment because the politicians cannot agree or reach a workable compromise.

    Other constitutional issues are very much in play and could be strongly effected e.g. Scottish independence and Irish re-unification.

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