No justification for an early election

All Hail Theresa May, our soon to be new Prime Minister. Last one standing gets the job, no election needed. This is a shame for the members of the Conservative party. An election would also have added much needed mirth for the rest of us throughout the summer as May and Leadsom battled it out between them. However this is a purely internal Tory party matter. They have the right to elect their leader any way they like.

Of course there is the small matter that the leader of the Conservative party is also right now the Prime Minister of the UK. As such there have been some loud calls for an early general election, mostly from the usual suspects, i.e. the opposition parties. However there does not to my mind exist any justifiable reasons for another general election. Not on constitutional grounds, nor on precedent, nor on political grounds.

As regards the constitution, or what passes for one in our non constitutional democracy, we do not directly elect a PM. Only the voters in his or her constituency can actually for for him or her. In a parliamentary democracy we vote for parties and can only do so in our own constituency. 99.9% of voters never, ever, get the chance to directly vote for a Prime Minister. At the last election, if you wanted David Cameron as PM, you had to vote conservative, while if you wanted to vote conservative, you had to do so knowing that David Cameron would almost certainly be the PM. Choice there was none. The same applied to potential Labour party voters. Those who voted for other parties knew that none of their candidates was likely to become PM. So, it seems to me that Theresa May has as much democratic credentials as all other PMs.

Precedent, which is an important part of our non constitutional democracy, also confirms that Theresa May does not require an early election. None of the changes in PM between elections has resulted in an immediate election. At least not in the last 100 years or so. Gordon Brown, John Major, Jim Callaghan et al succeeded to the post of PM without an immediate election. The same has happened in Scotland, Northern Ireland and I am sure, in Wales. There have been three changes in First Minister in Scotland in less than 20 years and none of them felt obliged, or were seriously pressured into calling an early election. So, again, precedent favours Theresa May.

As regards the politics, this too does not warrant another election. What political purpose would an early election have?  The government has not lost a vote of confidence and still has a working majority at Westminster. The Brexit vote is hardly a reason for another election. Though parliament is notionally sovereign and the referendum was technically advisory and not binding, it would be difficult for parliament to just override the result.  Whilst anything is possible, it does not seem to me to be terribly wise for politicians to seek to ignore the result. As Theresa May says, Brexit means Brexit.

This however is where it all gets very interesting politically. Despite Theresa May’s repetitions, nobody, including May herself, knows just what Brexit means. The fine details of Brexiting will provide much scope for argument, disagreements, anger, bitterness, insults and just possibly, some serious negotiations. Once these negotiations or non negotiations get properly started anything become possible. Including an early election. If the government cannot get its preferred position through parliament then it would have no option but to lose a vote of confidence and call for another election. The Tories got us into this mess. It is up to them to get us out of it. Or fail in the process. We may get another election before 2020, but not immediately. Let’s give Theresa May and her merry band as much rope as they need to hang themselves.

 

 

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2 Comments

Filed under European Union, UK

2 responses to “No justification for an early election

  1. Peter A Bell

    Alister Rutherford offers an excellent analysis. I would pick up only one point, and that is the reference to the difficulties facing Theresa May’s government as they strive to “get their preferred position through parliament” in terms of Brexit. It’s actually rather worse than that. Because we know what their “preferred position” is, and we know that it’s not going to be on offer from the EU.

    The UK Government’s “preferred position” may be concisely stated as being a negotiated settlement which affords the UK all the advantages of EU membership with few of the costs and none of the obligations that are considered an onerous burden or a hindrance to the Tories’ economically destructive and socially corrosive agenda. The want, demand and expect to be favoured with both the cake and the satisfaction of a cake well eaten.

    Promises were made to the people of the UK. In some parts of the UK – the only parts that matter as far as the British political establishment is concerned – people voted to leave the EU on the basis of those promises. There was never any way that what was promised could or would be delivered.

    (Thus far, much of this talk of empty promises will sound bitterly familiar to people in Scotland as they recall the despicable behaviour of the British establishment and its “Project Fear” propaganda campaign.)

    May has been left with no more than a few low-value cards to play in negotiations with the EU on Brexit. Basically, she will have to take whatever they are inclined to offer. And the mood in Europe towards the UK is very far from generous.

    May’s task is to sell the outcome of these negotiations to a parliament, including her own party, which either doesn’t want Brexit at all or, even where it does, will adamantly refuse to accept it on what will surely be regarded as the humiliating terms that May puts before them.

    In politics, there is a term for the situation in which Theresa May finds herself. She’s f***ed!

  2. Pingback: May’s poisoned chalice – Towards Indyref2 …

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