2 Sep 2019

Boris Johnson fires the first salvo in the election blame war

Boris Johnson fired the first salvo in the election blame war in front of Downing Street this evening. He knows voters don’t appreciate unnecessary elections and won’t thank him for interrupting normal programming for the next few weeks.

The Prime Minister’s delivery wasn’t his normal confident self. It may have been the racket from protestors in Whitehall or it may have been the magnitude of the path he was laying: not only risking the job he’s wanted since he was an embryo and only just assumed, but doing it in an election in uncertain times and having jettisoned some who were in the Cabinet until two months ago.

We have a date for the potential snap election: 14th October. Opposition forces may require that to be nailed down in legislation to make sure that the PM can’t suddenly shift it later beyond the 31st October Brexit date.

That shouldn’t be difficult to agree if it is required.

It’s a date that puts a giant Colossus-sized question mark next to any hopes of a renegotiated deal. The PM showed in his statement that he wants to convince people that a deal with the EU without the backstop in it is still possible. But many around the EU seem hugely sceptical of that even without the interruption to government time and focus that a five week election imposes.

It still must be possible that the rebellion tomorrow doesn’t win and Boris Johnson is back with a chance of getting No Deal without a general election. But without a real majority worthy of the name he has little chance of getting many fresh policies off the ground. He would need an early election anyway and have to think of a whole new casus belli to justify it.

There must also be a possibility that the opposition refuses to help him out with the early election trigger he is attempting and resorts to a different section of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act and a conventional Vote or No Confidence which, if passed, allows for 14 days of cross-party talks in which Jeremy Corbyn could, in theory, be voted into No 10. I’m told by one Tory rebel organiser that this approach was woefully (perhaps 40 to 50 MPs) short of a majority when it was gamed over the summer.

If you were betting now, it looks like the 14th October general election is where we might be heading, even as the man who has had it circled in his diary for some weeks feigns innocence and points the finger at his opponents.

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