it would require two-thirds of MPs to back [an election] under the Fixed Term Parliament Act.
But as blogger SKWAWKBOX has emphasised, a general election actually only requires Theresa May to lose a parliamentary confidence vote. Because if a simple majority of MPs vote against May and no alternative government forms within 14 days, a general election automatically goes ahead. That’s a majority (half plus one) of the MPs who vote, not two thirds of all the 650 MPs like with the other route.
How likely is a general election?
Parliament has been in deadlock over leaving the EU since the 2017 general election. And with Brexit coming to a head, it’s difficult to see where the Conservative Party can turn:
- Under May’s deal, the government is on the verge of officially losing the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which the ruling party needs to govern.
- Under ‘harder’ Brexit arrangements, the Conservatives risk a customs border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, breaking the Good Friday Agreement.
- Call a referendum re-run and the Conservatives risk haemorrhaging support to UKIP in the next general election, increasing the chance of a larger Labour majority.
- Call a general election and the Conservatives risk putting Corbyn in Number 10 sooner rather than later.
Another possible option is that the Conservatives simply ride out the transitional period until the scheduled 2022 general election. Under May’s arrangements, the transitional period can actually extend for decades.
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Labour’s version of Brexit
What’s clear is that May’s Brexit deal adamantly enforces EU rules against state intervention. This is a crucial problem: the main difference between Labour and the Conservatives’ Brexit plans is the type of economy Britain will have after leaving the EU. If elected, Labour needs to be able to enact its manifesto, which includes public ownership of key industries, a renewable energy revolution, and a huge social-housing programme. For Labour, that’s how Britain really ‘takes back control’.
Such a transformative industrial strategy addresses the root causes of Brexit. Such causes are explored in a comprehensive study from the University of Warwick, which found that austerity economics was the main driving force behind the Leave vote. In fact, “slightly less harsh” spending cuts from the Conservatives (and Lib Dems) could have swayed the referendum result, according to the district-level analysis.
Let’s end failed free-market economics, and thus the fundamental cause of Brexit, with a general election.
Featured image via Edinburgh Television Festival/YouTube
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