October 29, 2019
Sign up now to get The Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing, by email.Semana SantaThe phoney war is nearly, finally over. After months of skirmishes, we are heading for that pre-Christmas general election and all sides are mobilising their troops. Labour have more footsoldiers (half a million) and are Twitter video savvy, while the Tories have more money and an impressive airforce and heavy artillery (expect lots of Facebook and Google ads).
Why A December Election Is A Huge Gamble For Both Johnson And Corbyn
‌The nation should adopt the brace position for the number of times the Conservatives say ‘an election is the real People’s Vote’, and the number of times Labour say ‘the only poll that matters is in the ballot box on polling day’.
‌In the Commons, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn looked happier than they have been for months. Their critics may think that’s because they suffer from ‘grandiose narcissism disorder’, which a new study claims leads to less stress. But the real reason is that both prefer the excitement of the campaign stump to their more staid parliamentary duties.
‌Labour MPs looked decidedly less unenthusiastic than Corbyn as he backed a December polling day at the despatch box. ‘Gobble, gobble,’ one backbencher with a penchant for gallows humour joked to me, suggesting his leader was living proof that turkeys really do vote for Christmas. Whereas Johnson was cheered to the rafters by Tory MPs as he addressed his backbench 1922 committee, Corbyn may have seen tumbleweed go by if he’d tried to rally his PLP.
‌Labour’s divisions were very much on display in the day’s votes too, first with a chunk of them backing a May 7 2020 amendment, then more than a 100 MPs failing to join their frontbench in backing December 12. Many Labour MPs are so worried about their seats that they’ve already left London and won’t be back for PMQs or maybe even the Speaker election next week. By contrast, Johnson moved to heal his own party’s Brexit wounds by offering the whip back to ten rebels.
‌But of course, there are quite a few Tories who have their own worries about fighting an election without Brexit actually being delivered. The Brexit Party is gearing up with its winter campaign merchandise and all those ads showing Boris Johnson pledging to get the UK out of the EU by October 31 will play on a loop.
‌Conservatives may also be spooked by polling guru Professor Sir John Curtice’s prediction that there will be “a record number of non-Conservative and non-Labour MPs” elected: the SNP taking seats from Labour and the Tories and the Lib Dems on the up too. ’We could have more than 100 MPs that do not belong to either of the other two parties,” Curtice said.
‌If Labour cuts the Tory lead thanks to the equal TV airtime rules during the campaign, Johnson may also face the nightmare of tactical voting. The Best for Britain pro-EU campaign already has a voting guide lined up to help the public choose where best to align their Remain tendencies.
‌There is some evidence that the voters are already pretty canny about how to do this, though if the LibDem vote is stubbornly high in Labour-Tory marginals that could seriously cost Corbyn seats. Many in Tory HQ are hoping that Jo Swinson really is their secret weapon in such areas.Labour is hoping for either a 1974 ‘who governs Britain’ election or a 1945 ‘now win the peace’ election. The Tories long for 1987 all over again. But the dream scenario for the smaller parties may actually be 1923, the last time there was a December election in the UK. The Tories won most seats but Labour and the Liberals produced a hung parliament. To echo Curtice, it was also the last UK general election in which a third party won more than 100 seats.
‌It would be a great irony if the winter election that is intended to provide certainty just yielded yet more uncertainty. The British Election Study recently suggested voter sentiment is pretty volatile. Johnson’s biggest asset of course is that he heads into the campaign as a doer. In Brussels, he got the Brexit deal everyone said he’d never get. At Westminster, he’s now got the snap election everyone said he’d never get.
‌As for Brexit itself, that will probably have to wait until January. Whoever wins, it takes several days to swear in MPs and to get the Queen to open parliament, let alone get legislation through the UK and EU parliaments. Remember the First World War’s much mocked line that ‘it’ll all be over by Christmas’? Brexit almost certainly won’t be over by the end of 2019. Few would bet it being done by the festive season in 2020 either.Quote Of The Day“This endless, wilful, fingers crossed, ‘Not me, guv!’ refusal to deliver on the mandate of the people.”
‌– Boris Johnson attacks those who opposed Brexit and opposed a general election.Tuesday Cheat SheetThe Early Parliamentary General Election Bill passed all its Commons stages in just six hours flat. It sets a date of December 12. Jeremy Corbyn had earlier backed a winter election after addressing his shadow cabinet.
‌Ten Tory rebels had the whip restored after a meeting with Boris Johnson in his Commons office. But while Sir Nicholas Soames and some colleagues were welcomed back into the fold, Philip Hammond, Dominic Grieve, David Gauke were among others refused the ‘ladder’ back into the party.
‌Labour’s Owen Smith announced he would not stand at the election. An avid second referendum supporter, he was the last person to take on Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election in 2016.
‌Lib Dem defector Heidi Allen also announced she would not be standing at the next election just weeks after joining the party. She said that she was ‘exhausted’ by ‘nastiness and intimidation’ which had forced her to install panic alarms in her home.
‌Labour decided to halt all ‘trigger ballot’ processes for its MPs. All those who are not retiring or suspended will automatically be reselected as election candidates, ‘subject to NEC endorsement’. Local parties where selections due this week will go ahead.
‌Dozens of female MPs, led by Labour’s Holly Lynch, have signed a letter in ‘solidarity’ with the Duchess of Sussex for ‘taking a stand’ against media coverage of her and her family. The letter criticises the tone of recent stories about Meghan as ‘outdated’, ‘colonial’ and invading her privacy.What I’m Reading Could Boris Johnson have passed his Brexit Bill? - UK In A Changing EuropeGot A Tip?Send tips, stories, quotes, pics, plugs or gossip to waugh.zone@huffpost.com. 🔊 Subscribe To Commons PeopleEach week, the HuffPost UK Politics team unpack the biggest stories from Westminster and beyond. Search for Commons People wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe.Make sense of politics. Sign up to the Waugh Zone and get the political day in a nutshell.(Infographic supplied by Statista)
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