Given there is no majority in the House of Commons for a no-deal Brexit, and while Boris Johnson might be many things, he does appear to possess the ability to count, he’s decided to go all-in and request that Parliament be prorogued.
Let’s make this clear — the Prime Minister, “elected” by the votes of 92,153 members of the Conservative Party, is formally advising the Monarch (elected by nobody) to suspend the democratically elected House of Commons (elected in June 2017) until some time in mid October (it’s unclear at this point) in order to honour one interpretation of the democratically conducted referendum in June 2016. He’s dressing it up as a means to introduce a new Queen’s Speech outlining the priorities of his new government, but with Brexit Day looking on 31 October, and the various opposition parties finally getting their shit together and forming something of a (rickety) united front, this is all about forcing through a no-deal Brexit.
It’s proving unpopular (the speaker is outspoken against it, and even former PM John Major is on record as threatening court action to stop it), and it might be possible to stop it, but my money is on it going forward.
This also, of course, further fuels the rumours of a snap general election. A source local to Plymouth in the Labour Party has told people that she expects a GE on 14 October, but given the requirements of the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011, combined with a suspension of Parliament, I don’t see it as possible that soon — Parliament would have to vote on a new election through either of the two mechanisms literally next week for there to be a GE that soon.
But the noises over the past month do indicate that there very well could be an early General Election (I’m jaded, but then I’ve been hearing this sky is falling narrative since last Autumn — the next GE is always right around the corner, so we’re all a bit weary of such predictions). But is Labour even ready?
We are locally, but nationally? No, and not least because of our pals in Momentum:
“The struggle to defend themselves against trigger ballots is consuming the energy of Labour MPs and dividing local parties, just when they should be preparing to do battle with the Tories. The rules and how they should be interpreted are open to dispute, so there will be challenges, legal and otherwise, by Labour MPs targeted for eviction. Some may decide to stand as independents, splitting the Labour vote. So Labour faces the prospect of heading towards an autumn election in the middle of a rancorous and divisive deselection process that will make the party look vicious, fractured and incompetent.”
Even if we get past this bit of self-harm, what will our national message be? By all appearances, it will be a re-run of 2017, which will be suboptimal. 2019 is a different electoral context. The Cult will dismiss negative polls by (correctly) pointing out that we were down by 20% when Theresa May called her election in April 2017, and we closed the gap. As of today, there have been 18 polls conducted since Boris Johnson was elected leader of the Conservative Party, and the Tories lead in 17 (a month ago, a single poll put Labour an entire one point ahead), and the Conservative lead is double digits in three of the last four.
In October or November 2019, it will be more difficult for Labour to make up that ground than it was in 2017:
. . . one important factor in the 2017 election was that most people didn’t know very much about Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn. They knew that the Conservatives had a new prime minister who seemed hardworking and essentially normal: a step-up, as far as most voters were concerned, on David Cameron. They knew that Labour had elected a leader who was different from what had gone on before and there had been a great deal of internal upheaval, but not a lot more.
Whereas in 2019, most people have a pretty clear idea in their minds about what Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are like, for good or for ill.
Additionally, in 2017 we were confronted with perhaps the worst run Conservative campaign in generations, a mistake that they absolutely will not make in the next GE. Add to all this the unknowns created by the Brexit Party (earlier this morning we heard an interesting rumour regarding their candidate for my constituency, which, if true, offers us an election strategy that basically writes itself), as well as a resurgent Liberal Democrats with a clear message that resonates with a significant share of the electorate, and we have our work cut out for us.