18 Apr 17. Wow – my apologies for a fairly quick second commentary today on the brave yet, in my view, very sensible, well-thought out call from Prime Minister, Theresa May to hold (subject to a House of Commons vote planned for Wednesday) a General Election on Thursday June 8th.
Speaking outside No 10 Downing Street this morning, a lively Mrs May justified her decision as being based around Brexit saying that that while “the country is coming together Westminster is not” and that in her view and that of the Cabinet, division in Westminster risks the ability to make a success of Brexit”.
The natural tendency will be to view the election as being almost a second referendum vote and to an extent that may be right. However, rather than being a second Brexit vote this one is intended to provide Mrs May with a proper mandate to take what came out of the Brexit vote and the triggering of Article 50 all the way through to a conclusion that is fit for purpose. In other words, vote Conservative if you want Brexit to go through as this is the only party that will make Brexit happen.
I welcome the fact that Mrs May is going to the country although I fear that matters such as the economy, defence and other important factors will be left to one side. Calling an election now is not without considerable risks particularly in relation to the SNP using the election as a second independence referendum vote and with the continuing problem at Stormont. I see that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already told her people to use the General Election as a time to stand up for Scotland.
Labour meanwhile is in disarray – without an effective leader and without workable policies. Some may argue on that score just as they would if I suggested that the biggest risk that I could observe is that the Lib Dems who lost so much ground in the last General Election could now see something of a resurgence. Indeed, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has already said that “only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority”. We will see!
The Key quotes from Mrs. May’s statement calling General Election this morning (note that as required by the new status of five year terms, Parliament will vote of the General Election call on Wednesday) as quoted on the Telegraph website are as follows:
“I have just chaired a meeting of the Cabinet, where we agreed that the Government should call a general election, to be held on June 8.
“I want to explain the reasons for that decision, what will happen next and the choice facing the British people when you come to vote in this election.
“Last summer, after the country voted to leave the European Union, Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership, and since I became Prime Minister the Government has delivered precisely that.
“Despite predictions of immediate financial and economic danger, since the referendum we have seen consumer confidence remain high, record numbers of jobs, and economic growth that has exceeded all expectations.
“We have also delivered on the mandate that we were handed by the referendum result.”
I note that both Jeremy Corbyn and immediate past prime minister, David Cameron have welcomed the decision to call an election. The former says that “Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling standards and damaging cuts to schools and the NHS”. OK, quite enough of that and if that is the best Mr. Corbyn can do the result would be a no-brainer. I agree however with the sentiment that suggests if Labour comes out against Brexit it is probably doomed.
But, given what we have seen occur in the US and in the Brexit vote itself here in the UK, I would be the last to suggest that labour might be annihilated albeit that this may well be a repeat election of 1959 when Hugh Gaitskell lost heavily to sitting Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. Best though at this stage not to rule anything in or out! Neither should we rule out that Jeremy Corbyn might hand over the mantle of leader to his deputy.
The General Election will be fought on the existing boundaries – thus it will be interesting to observe whether the former Chancellor and soon to be editor of the Evening Standard will contest the seat or not? Clearly, while we do not know at this stage those sitting MP’s that will decide not to put themselves forward to the electorate, we will undoubtedly be saying say goodbye to a good many sitting MP’s and I would suggest that the next parliament could be one of the least experienced in living memory. Another worry is that finding suitable candidates to fight the General Election will be a problem for all parties. This is after all an unexpected election call by Mrs. May and it will to an extent backfire on all major parties. June 8th is after all only 51 days away.
While nothing will change in respect of Cabinet Government responsibilities between now and the General Election no new policy directives will occur from Ministers and, sometime after Wednesday’s vote on the General Election in the House of Commons, the House will be prorogued. With the unstable geo-political situation self-evident calling an election at this time may not appear to be a great idea but it appears that needs must. I guess that political leaders in the US, France, Germany and elsewhere are stunned. The reaction in France and Germany will be particularly interesting to observe.
How nice by the way that there was to be no leak of the decision by Mrs. May and that even the BBC had no idea of the bombshell dropped by the Prime Minister this morning following a Cabinet Meeting. Congratulations to the national press though for the speed that they got the initial reporting and subsequent comment up.
Whatever, these are interesting times and I will be kept very busy in the months ahead. I will keep you posted and welcome your views at every turn of the dice. As I am just about to slip down to Westminster I will at least be better able to judge the mood.
The final message – a good move and brilliant timing by Prime Minister Theresa May.
CHW – London – 18th April 2017)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785