Five questions about the next general election

by Jonathan Todd

Here with five questions about the next general election:

When will it be?

“I will probably win. I’m ready to be prime minister tomorrow,” Jeremy Corbyn told Grazia.

If the Tories thought Corbyn was going to win, they’d do everything possible to avoid an election, wouldn’t they?

They will also want to fight the next election when:

  • They have a new leader.
  • The economy is performing well.
  • Brexit is a ‘job done’. With the minimum of fuss.

There is a possibility that defeat for the government in the Commons on Brexit terms will precipitate an election. Equally, few Tory MPs – even Ken Clarke – would so vote if they thought that in doing so they were enabling PM Corbyn.

One way to manage this tension would be for Theresa May to pursue the form of Brexit – closer to Norway than Canada – for which there is a majority in the Commons. Her Chancellor will also reassure her that this is the way to deliver the best possible economy.

If Brexit becomes ever softer and more gradual, the date of the next election may recede into the future, potentially as far as June 2022.

Who will be the Tory leader?

If Norway feels too much like, to use the Foreign Secretary’s term, “a vassal state”, the Brexiteers might seek to eject Theresa May and install one of their own.

They lack, however, a convincing candidate, which may encourage them to reluctantly accept Norway as a staging post. They would have secured the UK’s exit from the EU, while creating a base from which a more complete separation might be achieved.

“The next Tory leader will be the person who has had the best six months before the contest,” one party grandee says. They will also be the person who best symbolises what the Tories want to be – a vehicle for renewed confidence and prosperity in a country outside the EU.

It is not clear that this is best personified by a Brexiteer – who feel too cranky and dusty. Amber Rudd, for instance, seems more at peace with herself and – though lacking “the necessary hashtags” – contemporary Britain. While she did not vote for Brexit in the referendum, she might, as a member of the government that delivered Brexit, be stomached by Brexiteer MPs and welcomed by party members looking for the best means possible of defeating Labour.

Who will be the Labour leader?

Jeremy Corbyn will be 73 in June 2022 – and it may take the Tories take this long to satisfy (or attempt to satisfy) the conditions that they are likely to want to see met before triggering an election.

If Corbyn were to lead Labour to victory in an election at that time, he’d become the oldest prime minister in British history. Another scenario, however, is Corbynism after Corbyn.

We hear, for example, rumours that Emily Thornberry has offered Seamus Milne a continued role in a Thornberry-led party in exchange for Momentum’s support in a Labour leadership election.

Whether Corbynism has the same appeal with a different front-person is unknown but – regardless of the veracity of these rumours and in spite of his revered status – it seems implausible that senior figures have not reflected on a post-Corbyn party.

What Brexit stage will have been reached?

“Nobody,” Oliver Letwin claims about the world after the end of the Article 50 period in March 2019, “is going to own Brexit or not own Brexit, or be pro-Brexit or anti-Brexit. Brexit will have happened, Brexit will be past history.”

But if we are Norway, Brexiteers will want to push for further detachment, while their opponents might dare to point out that we’d be better off as rule-makers in the EU, rather than rule-takers outside. Equally, if we are Canada, much political energy in the UK is likely to be focused upon bringing service sectors within the coverage of a deal that only covers goods.

Arguments – pace Letwin – about the UK and the EU seem likely to run well beyond March 2019. Nick Macpherson, former permanent secretary at the Treasury, underlines this:

“Trade agreements are long and complex and invariably take more than five years to agree. It is therefore very likely that the transitional period after the UK leaves the EU will last until 2024.”

How strong will traditional Tory (economic management) and Labour (public services) strengths be?

While a transitional period of the length envisaged by Macpherson would mean that the Tories will struggle to declare Brexit ‘job done’ this side of the next election, what impact this would have upon the Tory capacity to present themselves as competent economic managers is also crucial.

Many parts of the public sector – from the inequities of Universal Credit to the squalor of our prisons; from the shortage of GPs to the Treasury cuts that, according to an ex Tory MP, have crippled the justice system – are worryingly strained. Our capacity to provide these services with additional resources, however, is constrained by our economic performance – in turn, wrapped up with Brexit.

If this constraint is understood by the public, they might vote for the party that can do most to generate the economic growth to minimise it (which the Tories have traditionally liked to think is them), rather than the party whose hearts most bleed for resource-starved public services (which is usually Labour).

Corbyn can be forgiven for giving Grazia a simple, confident message but this parliament may contain more imponderables than this allows. And we may only be about a tenth of the way through it.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut   

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11 Responses to “Five questions about the next general election”

  1. John Wall says:

    It’s important to correct a few errors.

    Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act an election before June 2022 can only happen if 2/3 of the MPs vote for it, that’s how we had the 2017 election and the FTP act hasn’t been repealed although that was in the Conservative manifesto. Theresa May could lose vote after vote to the Brexit rebels and there still wouldn’t be an election.

    Don’t confuse a transition/implementation period with agreement of a trade deal, they’re different things. Michel Barnier has recently advised that the former will have to end by December 2020 as the next EU budget period starts in 2021. We may have a trade deal by then, we may not.

    Winston Churchill was born in 1874 and became PM for the second time in 1951, serving until 1955.

  2. John P Reid says:

    Dunno why I’m bothering replying to this but here goes

    1 Nay will be gone in 18months, Gavin Williamson wants it bad playing to the Telegraph, Tom T is the new darling of the neo liberals, Savid Javid ticks all the boxes as the stop Boris candidate

    We have Council election may 2018 in London and the around the South west in the next 18months
    Both will symbolize labour losing the blue collar working class outside Inner London
    Excluding the story collapse it them hwvung been burnt out after 7 years in (half) power

    And a low turnout
    Then there’s the Mayotal election London 2020′ remember. High turnout the last 3 ti,Es, labour winning the assembly vote in both inner London the Tory traditional vote in outer London not being high enough to stop it(although they voted Boris to stop Ken)

    Then there’s Scottish elections, playing on a second referendum

    If Corbynistas middle class areas don’t do as well as hoped they’ll be dislusioned even if they take hold of Hackney ETC, but post. Brexit the deselections, of pro EU, liberals in remain areas, will see them, take their open personal vote with them, the Labour Party may have money now,but are not good at spending it, then there’s the Anti Semitic issue, and the Tories poor record

    What’s going to happen id the realization, that Corbyn can’t pretend he still understand the working class blue collar, and pretend he speaks for the student vote, labournwill just dwindle into giving up on the over 50 working class and then labour will lose Luton, new castle Birmingham..

  3. Tafia says:

    The next General Election will take place mid-2019, probably June and parties (and candidates) will have to have a post-EU agenda or they will be irrelevant. When Parliament returns from summer recess, it will be a new government with a post-EU agenda, in a new world and that government better have a plan to shape it.

  4. Anne says:

    Wasn’t Churchill older than 72 when he was PM?
    Jeremy Hunt appears to be positioning himself for the top job – he has done a poor job with managing the nhs – he would grin and smirk while he caused havoc in other public services.
    We now have Russian Boris.
    Emily Thornbury would make a good Home Secretary- but maybe not leader.
    May I wish all our Labour uncut readers a Merry Christmas but more, let us unite, and make 2018 a Labour year. I would prefer a general election sooner than 2022.

  5. Ydoethur says:

    The oldest person to hold the office of Prime Minister was Gladstone (83 in 1894).

    However the point is still valid as the oldest first time Prime Minister was Palmerston (71 in 1855).

    Although Corbyn looks pretty fit and nobody could fault his energy he has neither Palmerston’s intellect nor his experience of Government. His age therefore without compensating factors is likely to become a factor. Indeed prior to the election there was a suggestion that he planned to retire in 2019.

  6. Landless Peasant says:

    Corbyn’s age is irrelevant. Havent you heard? the Tories have banned Retirement, or at least tried to make it a dirty word, as though Retiring is socially unacceptable.there is no age limit, we can all work til we drop. Dennis Skinner could be PM, & a bloody good one he’d make too!

  7. John P Reid says:

    Landless peasant, as Corbyn hasn’t done a day’s work in his life, as a back bencher who never even sat In a select committee for 32 years before he became leader and has McDonnell, to run his Stasi, er.. I mean team
    Technically he’s never had a job , to retire,

  8. Landless Peasant says:

    @ John P Reid

    Well I haven’t had a job for a bloody long time either, so what? That doesn’t prevent me from eagerly anticipating Retirement asap, mainly to get the DWP c**ts off my back if nothing else. Did Blair ever do a day’s work in his life? or Miliband? or any of them apart from Prescott?

  9. john P Reid says:

    Blair was on Select committees the shadow cabinet, shadow energy secretary, shadow Employment secretary, shadow home secretary, and as leader of the opposition, he won a election

    think Ed miliband was an adviser to Tony benn and a Spad for Gordon brown, and was Environment secretary

  10. Landless Peasant says:

    Exactly. None of them have ever had a proper job.

  11. John P Reid says:

    Who said anything about proper jobs. I said do a days work in his life

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