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 October 17, Boris Johnson agreed a Brexit deal with the European Union. On October 19, the Letwin amendment passed the Commons by 322 votes to 306. All current Conservatives voted against this amendment, as did six Labour MPs. But the ten Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs voted in favour, as did many of the expelled Conservatives.
The Letwin amendment withholds approval for the deal until legislation to enact Brexit has passed parliament. If not for the amendment, the deal would likely have passed, as some who voted for the amendment indicated they would support the deal itself; they only voted for Letwin to ensure a no-deal Brexit on October 31 did not occur.
As approval of the deal was delayed, Johnson was required to request a Brexit extension. He sent three letters: an unsigned copy of the letter required by the Benn Act, an explanatory letter from the UK’s EU ambassador and a signed letter from Johnson explaining why he does not want an extension. I do not know what the EU, lawyers and courts will make of these contradictory letters.
No current Conservative MP has spoken against the deal. Unlike Theresa May’s deal, which applied a backstop to the whole UK, Johnson’s deal only applies to Northern Ireland, with the rest of the UK free to change trading arrangements. As commentator Stephen Bush wrote, this freedom appealed to hard Leavers far more than May’s deal.
Johnson reverted to the EU’s original offer, which May had rejected owing to her need for the DUP to form a government. Johnson wants an election, so he doesn’t care about the DUP causing trouble, and was happy to shaft them.
Whether legislation passes parliament, is rejected or unacceptably amended, an election is likely coming soon, as Jeremy Corbyn says he will support an election once a long extension is granted. If the deal is enacted, a transition period until December 2020 will mean no economic consequences until then. Polls suggest a favourable reaction to the Brexit deal has further boosted the Conservatives.
Labour’s best chance to win the next election is to attack the Brexit deal as a sell-out to the right. But one explanation for Labour’s surge before the June 2017 election was that inflation-adjusted wages were down 0.5% in the year to May 2017; they are up 2.0% in the year to August 2019.
Minority government likely in Monday’s Canadian election
The Canadian election will be held Monday, with polls closing Tuesday Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT). Canada uses first-past-the-post. According to the CBC Poll Tracker, voting intentions are 31.7% Liberals (centre-left), 31.4% Conservatives, 18.2% NDP (left-wing), 8.2% Greens and 7.0% Quebec Bloc (left-wing, separatist). Seat expectations are 139 of 338 Liberals, 121 Conservatives, 40 Bloc, 35 NDP and two Greens.
If, as is likely, no party wins a majority (170 seats), the party with the most seats could form a minority government. If the Conservatives won the most seats, they could be ousted by an agreement between the Liberals and other left-wing parties. However, this did not occur after either the 2006 or 2008 elections. Perhaps reform of the electoral system could be a bargain for support.
Canada uses staggered polling times, so that most polls close at the same time. However, the four eastern provinces’ polls close by 10:30am Tuesday AEDT, but they account for just 32 of the 338 seats. Most polls close at 12:30pm AEDT, with polls in British Columbia (42 seats) closing at 1pm. We should have a rough idea of the result by 1:30pm. Canadian media list seats as either “leading” (a candidate leads in the vote count) or “elected” (called for a candidate).
Election updates: Portugal and Argentina
- With the four overseas Portuguese seats declared for the October 6 election, the Socialists won 108 of 230 seats (up 22) and the conservatives 84 (down 23). All other parties’ seats are as in my previous Portugal
- There will be an October 27 Argentine presidential election. A candidate needs at least 45% to win without a runoff. In 2015, conservative Mauricio Macri won, ending 12 years of left-wing presidencies. Polls give left-wing candidate Alberto Fernández over 50% and about a 20-point lead over Macri.