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?”

  1. “I don’t understand how Corbyn could come close to winning an election given all the recent polling numbers.”

    ***

    Have you been watching how incompetent the Conservatives are? They’re an absolute joke! The Bananas in Pajamas could do a better job of running Britain than that lot.

    As for polling, Corbyn closed a big gap during the last election, so I don’t see why he can’t do that again. Also, we Australians should know better than most that polls can’t always be trusted. The polls in the UK may be close to accurate or they may be completely wrong.

    ***

    “Asked which would be worse in a poll, 43% selected Corbyn becoming PM, while 35% chose a no-deal Brexit.”

    ***

    That 43% really need a no-deal Brexit to give them a big hard kick up their backsides. Sometimes people have to learn the hard way. If they want their no-deal disaster so badly then let them have it. They’ll be begging for the very moderate centre-left Corbyn within weeks.

  2. Thanks Adrian. The outcome of an election is any ones guess are the polls right if they are they can very well change and rembember with tactical voting. Anything is possible and a fpp system allows this

  3. From the previous Brexit thread…

    Honest Bastard @ #143 Saturday, September 7th, 2019 – 10:12 am

    Tweet from Matthew Green on new polling from Survation / Mail:
    https://twitter.com/GoodwinMJ/status/1170090512872873986

    Direct link to picture showing poling figures & graphs:
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EDz_GlxXUAAxaKY?format=jpg&name=900×900

    Those figures don’t look good for the blockers and look particularly bad for Jeremy Corbyn. And a massive 75% don’t think Britain’s political class are serving the interests of the country.

    (Sorry, but numbers polled and other polling details not given in that tweet so I have no idea of the polling quality).

    The questions are a bit leading (Corbyn versus No-Deal, hmm), but they seem to reflect the UK’s current mood and mindset. And when you add in the sentiments and logic exposed in this clip that you posted, it’s hard to see a coherent Labour election message for whichever side of October 31 the GE happens.
    https://youtu.be/x2KPo3meIe4

  4. Somewhat bad news, if you are a Scottish Tory 🙂

    YouGov poll: SNP will win every Scottish Tory seat in UK election.

    THE Conservatives are set to lose all their Scottish seats to the SNP in a General Election, a new poll suggests.

    “There are 13 Tory MPs in Scotland, but the YouGov poll for the People’s Vote campaign indicates they would all be replaced by the SNP.

    The polling, which was conducted exclusively in Conservative-held constituencies across Scotland, points to a 14% drop in the party’s vote share in these seats, down from 44% to 30%.

    Meanwhile, the vote share for the SNP is predicted to rise from 34% to 42%.”

    Voting intentions for Westminster (YouGov, respondents in Scottish Conservative-held constituencies only):

    SNP 42%
    Conservatives 30%
    Liberal Democrats 12%
    Labour 7%
    Brexit Party 5%

    https://outline.com/6G4fzf

  5. The election will be won by whichever two parties can form an electoral pact: Conservatives & Brexit Party or Labour & the LibDems. By electoral pact I mean a reciprocal agreement to not run a candidate in a seat better favoured to be won by your allied party.

    For the Conservatives & Brexit parties this would mean the Conservatives don’t run in a number of Midlands seats and in the NE of England and vice versa for the Brexit Party not running in some London seats and some other ares.

    For the Labour & Lib Dem parties again this would mean that the Lib Dems don’t run in those same seats the Brexit party would be targeting in the Midlands and NE. And Labour doesn’t run in those seats that are more a Conservatives vs Lib Dems match-up.

    Now, which of these groupings are more likely to be able to make such an agreement? It is constantly repeated that Dominic Cummings and Nigel Farage loathe each other. So that is one impediment to a Conservatives & Brexit party agreement. But despite this I still see these two parties as the more likely to make an agreement. And I think the expulsion of the 21 traitors (I’m not usually given to such strong labeling but I think it is deserved in this case) shows an important step down this path. It’s very hard for me to see the Labour party and the Lib Dems forming an agreement, mainly because the Labour party has already become ideologically a London party, not a northern seats party, and thus they will be unwilling to give up the ‘woke vote’ to the Lib Dems.

    As still the highest polling party, could the Conservatives win by themselves? Their only chance was if Boris delivered Brexit by October 31st. That is now looking unlikely and so, I think, they must realise the necessity of a pact with Farage. One thing that the Conservative party understands perhaps better than any other UK party is how to survive. And the very survival of the Conservatives is now on the line (even more so the survival of the Labour party but I don’t think they’ve woken up to the threat yet).

  6. From Adrian’s post:

    Once Parliament is dissolved, Johnson could call the election for November 1 – the day after Brexit

    How? By what mechanism can Boris call an election without either a 2/3rds majority vote for an early election or after suffering a defeat in a no-confidence vote and with no alternative government successfully forming within 14 days?

  7. HB, I’m saying that, if Labour voted for the motion to dissolve, it would get a 2/3 majority. The first sentence in the next paragraph is conditional on Labour voting for a dissolution.

    In that poll you posted on the old thread (reposted here), 52% prefer no-deal vs 31% Corbyn becoming PM, and the Brexit plus Tory vote is at 46%: Tories 29%, Lab 24%, LD 18%, Brexit 17%.

    So, yep, things are grim for Corbyn at the moment. My view is that a no-deal Brexit will change that, but we’ll see (if it ever happens!)

  8. Bucephalus @ #2 Saturday, September 7th, 2019 – 8:55 am

    I don’t understand how Corbyn could come close to winning an election given all the recent polling numbers.

    The polling in the voluntary-voting UK could easily be far further off the mark than the incredibly consistent polling in favour of Australian Labor up until May, and look where that ended up. Wait and see what the polls do over the next couple of weeks but don’t underestimate the negative effects of the Loungechair Lizard (Rees-Mogg) the Screaming Banshee (Cummings) and Barmy Boris himself. They seem unelectable to me but then I’m no rabid right winger.

  9. HB …… would the conservatives want multiple Brexit mps in parliament and what would they do in balance of power or shared balance of power situation. how many ldp, conservative labour marginal seats exist? if tories lose 13 seats to snap then how can they get an absolute majority? Also will dup still play with the conservatives?

  10. Victoria, I don’t think Corbyn can be blamed for Labour’s woes.

    Eg, if Labour had been led by someone who was pro-Remain, how would that person have coped with the 2016 referendum result? Labour would probably have done far less well in 2017 if that were the case.

  11. Adrian Beaumont @ #16 Saturday, September 7th, 2019 – 3:26 pm

    Victoria, I don’t think Corbyn can be blamed for Labour’s woes.

    Eg, if Labour had been led by someone who was pro-Remain, how would that person have coped with the 2016 referendum result? Labour would probably have done far less well in 2017 if that were the case.

    I don’t care how bad people think Corbyn is, he’s light years ahead of the fool Boris. If a majority of voters can’t see that more fool them.

  12. Boris is like Abbott … feels he is entitled……… this is a lack of the common touch. Remember Cameron held the referendum assuming a remain vote would win not a narrow leave vote. This is the mess the Tories left the UK. But there is Karma what ever Boris has touched has turned to s**t……. and he pretends he knows what he is doing.

  13. Thanks Adrian.

    The right wing media are naturally supporting their man Johnson. Their papers have done a good spread of Corbyn as a chicken for not agreeing to Johnson’s election timeline.

  14. Nothing I’ve watched or read has changed my impression that Johnson wants Brexit by October 31.

    It appears to me that:
    * Johnson wants to be remembered as the Brexit PM. If it has to be short then at least make it sharp.
    * Johnson has to hold out another 54 days.
    * Proroguing parliament has had the desired(?) effect of damaging trust all round.
    * So for Brexit he’s done what’s needed and he will now just go through the motions.
    * For everything else? He’s campaigning. Chasing hearts and minds. Brexit is his vehicle.

    In the narrower context of the Benn bill I wonder if Johnson sees himself as a saviour, prepared to martyr himself to lead his people out of the wilderness? If so, I worry that the turmoil in the UK has only just started.

  15. A new Survation Poll shows that 54% of UK voters prefer the UK to leave the EU. In also shows some danger for the opposition parties in Westminster.

    “Which of the following would be your preferred outcome of the Brexit process? (changes vs 29th-30th August)

    The UK remains in the EU – 37% (-3)
    The UK leaves the EU with a deal 32% (-1)
    The UK leaves the EU without a deal 22% (+3)
    Don’t know 9% (+2)”

    This is despite the fact that in a hypothetical re-run of the 2016 referendum a majority (53%) would vote to remain in the EU.

    “Conceptual EU Referendum re-run

    Top line attitudes to how the public would, if it occurred vote in a re-run of 2016’s referendum ……….. Leave 47% (NC) Remain 53% (NC)”.

    The seeming contradiction between these polling figures is explained by the fact that UK voters do NOT approve Parliament thwarting the outcome of the 2016 referendum even though a smallish majority now favour remaining in the EU.

    https://www.survation.com/how-bad-was-boris-johnsons-week-it-depends-who-you-ask/

  16. Serious question – is the Queen a wild card in all this? She has already allowed Boris to cancel Parliament and I assume the Queen’s role is probably roughly equivalent to our GG. So can/will she do a “dismissal” and force an election to favour Boris?

  17. Amber Rudd has sensationally quit the cabinet – and the Conservative Party – accusing Boris Johnson of misleading the country over wanting to avoid a crash-out Brexit.

    In a devastating resignation letter, the work and pensions secretary told the prime minister: “I no longer believe leaving with a deal is the government’s main objective.”

    Ms Rudd, a leading pro-EU figure criticised for serving Mr Johnson in the first place, also condemned the decision to expel 21 rebel Tories for defiance over Brexit, another reason for walking out.

    It was “an assault on decency and democracy” and an “act of political vandalism” to end the careers of respected heavyweights including Ken Clarke, Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Nicholas Soames.

    “I cannot stand by as good, loyal moderate Conservatives are expelled,” Ms Rudd wrote.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/amber-rudd-resign-boris-johnson-cabinet-conservatives-brexit-a9096146.html

  18. The Queen is 93 and has never made an independent decision in the 67 years she has been on the throne (there is some debate on whether the influenced the replacement of Harold McMillan in 1963)

    So, no, the Queen is not a wildcard in Brexit but she is a good reason why we should have an elected president with a fixed term

  19. Some thoughts on the Brexit tactics.

    CONTEMPT OF COURT
    According to The Guardian if PM Johnson refuses to follow the law he could be found in Contempt of Court, punishable by jail. So how long would that take? And would this be a realistic way to reset the clock with only 54 days remaining? How long would it take to complete the following processes?
    * Enact the law.
    * Charge the Johnson with his duty.
    * Allow PM Johnson time to reject his duty. (“I need to evaluate my position….”)
    * Force PM Johnson to court.
    * Find PM Johnson in contempt.
    * Give PM Johnson time to resign or otherwise removed him as PM. (Can a PM serve from jail?)
    * Find and install a new or caretaker PM. (Parliament will be prorogued.)
    * Formally ask for an extension.
    * Allow the EU to consider and grant the extension.

    EU VETOS
    I think for the EU to grant an extension it has to be unanimous. (Ireland will be melting the phones right about now to prepare for this contingency.) Would the risk of a veto, say, by France be considered too great and lead some UK MPs to push for cancelling Article 50? (The EU have already said that the UK could do this at any time. The UK PMs could use the excuse that it was solely to prevent no-deal and include a promise to re-trigger Article 50 at a later date.)

    MARTYRDOM OF JOHNSON
    If Johnson successfully martyrs himself for his people (“They know not what they do…”) would he be resurrected at some stage to lead the Tories to victory (biblical themes would surge) or become the figurehead of someone else?

  20. Late Riser

    I’m thinking Boris is attempting to martyr himself.
    His language about dying in a ditch and not surrendering etc are not off the cuff, but deliberately intentioned.

  21. 3 new polls today, with Tory leads of 3 points in Panelbase, 10 in Opinium and 14 in YouGov. I’m copying from Britain Elects on Twitter.

    Britain Elects
    @britainelects
    ·
    4h
    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 35% (-)
    LAB: 21% (-4)
    LDEM: 19% (+3)
    BREX: 12% (+1)

    via
    @YouGov
    , 05 – 06 Sep
    Britain Elects
    @britainelects
    ·
    6h
    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 35% (+3)
    LAB: 25% (-1)
    LDEM: 17% (+2)
    BREX: 13% (-3)

    via
    @OpiniumResearch
    , 04 – 06 Sep
    Chgs. w/ 23 Aug
    Britain Elects
    @britainelects
    ·
    7h
    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 31% (+10)
    LAB: 28% (-3)
    LDEM: 19% (+6)
    BREX: 15% (-4)
    GRN: 2% (-3)

    via
    @Panelbase
    , 05 – 06 Sep
    **Chgs. w/ May**

    Britain Elects also has exclusive polling from ComRes. If a general election is held AFTER an extension, the Tories trail Labour by 2 pts: 28% Lab, 26% Con, 20% LD, 17% Brex.

    If held before Oct 31 without Brexit delivered, Tories lead by 3: 30% Con, 27% Lab, 21% LD, 14% Brex.

  22. Oakeshott Country says:
    Sunday, September 8, 2019 at 9:04 am
    The Queen is 93 and has never made an independent decision in the 67 years she has been on the throne (there is some debate on whether the influenced the replacement of Harold McMillan in 1963)

    So, no, the Queen is not a wildcard in Brexit but she is a good reason why we should have an elected president with a fixed term

    _____________________________

    The Queen (or the governor-general here) is not a referee but a keystone – not much of anything on her own but in the right place crucial to keep the whole country together. She should not be making independent decisions – she should be following the advice of whoever the Parliament elected by the people decides has its confidence unless Parliament withdraws that confidence – and then take the advice of Parliament’s new nominee.

    The great sin of Kerr was not sacking Whitlam, but doing so while he still had the confidence of the House of Representatives.

  23. The seeming contradiction between these polling figures is explained by the fact that UK voters do NOT approve Parliament thwarting the outcome of the 2016 referendum even though a smallish majority now favour remaining in the EU.

    ___________________________________________

    The answer is a second referendum. If the people vote again, with all the facts now available, then they can wear it. The biggest problem with the first referendum (and there were too many to count) was that it was arguably won on a big pack of lies being told by one side (and complacency on the other – but that’s not a reason for a second go).

  24. Regarding the Survation Poll I mentioned above (at 6:59 am)

    The UK voting intention figures are:
    Westminster voting intention

    Considering changes vs our last update (fieldwork 29th-30th August) state of the parties was as follows:

    CON 29 (-2)
    LAB 24 (NC)
    LD 18 (-3)
    BREX 17 (+3)
    GRE 3 (NC)
    SNP 4 (NC)
    AP 6 (+2)

    Were MPs right to block a General Election “at this time?”

    We then asked:
    On Wednesday, MPs from most opposition parties did not support or voted against a bill in parliament brought by the government that would have allowed a General Election. Which of the following statements is closest to your view?

    MPs were right to block a General Election at this time – 35%
    MPs were wrong to block a General Election at this time – 43%
    Don’t know – 21%

    https://www.survation.com/how-bad-was-boris-johnsons-week-it-depends-who-you-ask/

  25. TPOF

    “The answer is a second referendum”.

    ————————

    I wonder if a second referendum will result in a confirmation of the 2016 because a percentage will see the remainers/Parliament being sore losers.

    On the question of lies and misinformation, i think won can say that about every election. There is no doubt that the Scottish referendum of 2014 was marked by considerable lies and a massive one-sided media campaign by the Unionist Side.

  26. Swamprat

    I wonder if a second referendum will result in a confirmation of the 2016 because a percentage will see the remainers/Parliament being sore losers.

    ____________________________

    There is every possibility this will occur. However, a wrong-headed decision made by voters is different from one where the decision followed from palpable lies and foreign interference, as in 2016.

    The argument for a rerun of the referendum is not that the voters got it wrong, but that they were lied to well beyond the realms of acceptability.

  27. There is an oops in my earlier post. So just to clear my conscience, while “the Johnson” has a ring to it, it was was unintended. I had originally written “the PM” and decided for clarity to change “PM” to “Johnson”. My mistake.

  28. Nadia Bartel whilst requesting privacy over her marriage breakdown, just can’t stop leaking to the Herald Sun or uploading trivial crap on instagram. Seems to be all about her and her mummy lifestyle blog and the $ to be earned as an influencer. The double standards are sickening.

  29. I’m seeing speculation that Johnson might organise a no-confidence motion in his own government on Monday (and whip his party to support it). Such a vote requires only a majority to pass of course.

    Difficulties with this option (apart from it being spectacularly unusual) would be the speaker possibly disallowing it or, if allowed and passed, it opening the door to the Block Brexit parties installing an alternative government for a period of time (if they can reach an agreement on leader, which still looks unlikely).

  30. Tweet from Sunday Times political editor:

    Nigel Farage tells the Sunday Times the Brexit party will not stand candidates against the 28 Tory Brexiteers who opposed May’s deal – and anyone else who vows not to back any deal

  31. Nicola Sturgeon: ‘SNP poll victory will wash away indyref2 block’

    Sturgeon said independence is now all but inevitable because of the actions of “the most dangerous, reckless and irresponsible government the UK has had to endure in modern times”.

    She accused the Tory government of “arrogantly and high-handedly dismissing and ignoring Scotland’s views” and as a result the country now faces being taken out of the European Union, despite voting to remain.

    Even worse, the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has taken the whole of the UK to the brink of a No-Deal Brexit, Sturgeon said.

    “Boris Johnson has no majority, no mandate and no right whatsoever to try and drag Scotland and the rest of the UK over the calamitous cliff edge of a No-Deal Brexit – an outcome that wasn’t on the ballot paper in 2016 and which literally no-one has voted for,” said Sturgeon.
    …………..
    Sturgeon said the 2014 referendum had changed Scotland fundamentally for the better. “I believe, with head and heart, that when the time comes Scotland will vote Yes to an independent future – and that is perhaps the greatest legacy of the historic campaign of 2014.”

    https://outline.com/2HaV5U

  32. “This applause would be very different from most cases where politicians flagrantly break laws”… The applause may sound different to some, but you break the law nonetheless and you end in jail: A “hero” for some perhaps… a Criminal PM for others…. and so the country goes down the drain, and you are to blame!

    BoJo wants to play chicken?…. But he is the one to be roasted!

  33. The stupid Tory game of focusing on Corbyn reminds me of the stupid Liberal game of focusing on Shorten…. I suspect that the same political strategist may be behind that approach… I can only wonder who might he be…

    In the end the Liberals here won not because of the anti-Shorten brouhaha, but because of preferences from minor parties flowing to them especially in Queensland…. I can only wonder what the equivalent situation in the UK might be.

    In any event, in the UK an electoral collaboration between Labour, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru… may finally defeat the Tory-Brexit party axis at the election.

  34. “Rather ominous for Labour”…. But only if you ignore the remain Conservative voters who won’t vote for the Conservative party or the Brexit party… The Conservative party is falling apart, pretending that it’s not is delusional.

  35. I’d hate to see the entitled schoolboy japes of Johnson, Alexander and Cummings, Dominic rewarded at any election. Their immaturity is absolutely astounding.

  36. PARIS (Reuters) – France’s foreign minister said on Sunday that, as things stand, the European Union would not grant Britain an extension beyond Oct. 31 to negotiate its exit from the bloc.

    “It’s very worrying. The British must tell us what they want,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio.

    Asked if an extension beyond Oct. 31 was possible, Le Drian said not under current conditions. “We are not going to do (extend) this every three months,” he said.

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