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Time to Think the Unthinkable?

November 30th, 2019

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”

Karl Marx

A guest slot from Stodge

Like every other election, the June 2017 General Election had generated its fair share of myths and legends. One is that all the polls showed a big Conservative majority until the very end – well, some certainly did but not all.

The YouGov from May 24-25 showed a Conservative lead of just 5 points while Opinium at the same time showed a ten point lead.

In the end, Theresa May’s lead over Labour was just 2.5% and insufficient to win a majority. 

Could the same thing happen again and what would happen if it did?

Let me stress at this point that history is rarely symmetrical and those looking for order within its chaos usually end up disappointed. I’ve bought Conservative seats at 325 and I don’t expect to lose money.

However, as a member of alternatehistory.com I’d be remiss not to consider the future counterfactual.

What if Boris’s gamble fails and he fails to win a majority? 

I’ll consider the two main areas – Government formation and Brexit.

Deadlock Continued?

I’m not suggesting Labour could or will win a majority – I’ll leave that to what others are smoking – but if the Conservatives ended up in the 300-310 range, the problems would really start.

Boris burnt his bridges with the DUP in spectacular fashion and he can expect no help from the Liberal Democrats. In truth, beyond the Conservative Party itself, it’s hard to see any other support for Johnson.

The corollary is Jeremy Corbyn is in the same position. Neither the SNP nor the Liberal Democrats will support him.

That works to Boris’s advantage as there are only two ways to remove a sitting Prime Minister who won’t budge – one is via an election and the other via internal insurrection. Would the Conservative Parliamentary Party, which swept him to the top of the ballot barely six months ago, turn on him? It’s said the Conservatives are ruthless with failures but they allowed Theresa May, who actually lost a majority, to limp on.

The other side is there’s no mechanism to remove a Prime Minister unless an alternative figure whether from the PM’s own party or from a coalition of parties can command a majority in the Commons. 

If one Party decisively wins an election that’s easy but in our scenario there’s no certainty Jeremy Corbyn could command a majority (and the time for “Governments of National Unity” has surely been and gone).

I suspect unless the Conservatives move decisively against him (and I consider that unlikely), Boris Johnson will take matters back to the floor of the Commons safe in the knowledge the contempt in which Jeremy Corbyn is held outside (let alone inside) Labour is his trump card.

Brexit Done or Undone?

None of this would matter too much were it not for the fact the extension agreed with such reluctance and petulance by the Prime Minister ends on January 31st 2020.

It seems inconceivable in another Hung Parliament the Johnson Withdrawal Agreement (WA) will pass (the rebels and independents on both sides will, I suspect, have been purged by the election so the numbers will be much more along Party lines) but it seems equally inconceivable Johnson will seek or even try to seek yet another extension.

Yet there will be no majority in the new Parliament for leaving without a WA and it may be even within the new Conservative intake there will be those who will be opposed to leaving with No Deal.

Thus, it’s another extension but will the EU allow it and it seems improbable they would agree to anything shorter than a 12 month period. The UK would be trapped – unable to stay in and unable (seemingly) to leave.

Is there an option?

Could the much derided “People’s Vote” emerge as the only alternative? The Liberal Democrats and SNP would insist an option to Remain (in effect to revoke) is on the ballot paper along with options to leave with the Johnson WA and an option to leave with No Deal.

The 2020 Referendum would, I suspect, make the 2016 contest look like a friendly afternoon picnic and leave us as polarised and divided as before.

Final Thoughts:

For some the prospect of a second Hung Parliament represents the ultimate nightmare and it’s my belief this won’t happen though I don’t think Boris will achieve a landslide – more a comfortable working majority and while I will make some money I’ll have to carry on working for a living.

I’m also minded to two other maxims – first, half a pint is better than an empty glass and second, what is said before an election and what is said after may be worlds apart.

Stodge