Opinion from Lord Digby Jones

What a Surprise!

Published Friday 28 April, 2017

Well well well! That caught everyone completely off guard, not least Your's truly!

So it's to be a General Election on 8th June. That woman's got balls, that's for sure; and the Nation admires strong, decisive Leadership. Even if some people don't like it, they respect it ......... and vote for it.

 

Theresa May is going straight over the top of the squabbling, obstructive, debilitating, political machinations of the Westminster bubble (in elected and unelected form) and appealing to the GBP (the Great British Public) for her personal mandate, ticking a load of boxes along the way.

 

If she wins handsomely: -

  • She acquires her own, not inherited, mandate for a full five years covering everything, not just Brexit.
  • She stands tall in Brexit negotiations with the EU, radiating legitimacy and strengthening her hand. The Country will benefit from this, it is not a party-political point; no-one in the U.K. Is served well if Brexit negotiations come to a climax just as all opposition parties are limbering up for a General Election in a few months' time and will use Brexit divisions and compromise to sordid domestic party political advantage, as will the EU's leaders in those negotiations. A successful outcome of this Election call eliminates that risk.
  • She puts the main opposition party back for some ten years (two more General Elections at least) and can get on with governing the Country (the UK, not just England) for long-term benefit.

 

No Government since 1983 (and that includes three Blair and two more Thatcher administrations) has had the polling lead over Her Majesty's Opposition that the Prime Minister's Ruling Party is experiencing right now.

 

No Labour Leader has ever formed an Administration (with the exception of the Attlee and Blair landslides of 1945 and 1997 respectively) without needing to carry a majority of seats in Scotland.

 

There is a widespread feeling in the Country (not least amongst many Labour supporters) that Jeremy Corbyn couldn't be trusted to run a whelk stall, let alone the fifth largest economy on the planet.

 

The Party that is well ahead in the Opinion Polls on both the view as to which leader is preferred as Prime Minister and also which party is the better choice to run the economy has always formed a majority government ever since polling began.

 

So, if not now, when?

 

BUT: -

  • The Boundary Commission's changes (favouring the Conservatives) will not be effective on 8th June; they are due to come into effect in 2020. This disadvantages the Tories against all opposition parties; that is unfair and unrepresentative ........ but whoever said politics was fair?! 
  • The PM is making this a Brexit General Election; so many will see it as a Second Referendum and Remainers may well vote for anyone but the Tories. This will be Christmas Day for the Liberal Democrats and they will take a few seats of the Tories in the South-west (lost two years ago) and many seats off Labour in areas of Wales and England that voted Remain last year. But many Labour seats in Brexit areas will be vulnerable to the double whammy of "the Corbyn effect" plus the PM's strong Brexit Leadership. 
  • For some reason - maybe the timing of the Spring Bank Holiday weekend (surely such an historic occasion and a momentous consequence is not going to turn on the timing of a wet weekend in late May!) - Theresa May has allowed a campaign of six weeks' duration. Why not just four? The longer the campaign, the greater the chance for momentum to build in favour of Corbyn, the Liberals and also that clever, astute but single-issue, failing leader in Scotland. 
  • There are of course many (in fact far too many) constituencies where "you could put a sheep up in blue/red and get it in". The syndrome of "this house has always voted Labour/Conservative" will help Labour desperately trying to nullify the adverse effect of Corbyn but also probably the Conservatives where Remainer Tories will be torn as to what to do: but that's where Mr Fallon and his Liberal Democrats will be licking their psephological lips..... to Theresa's detriment.

 

So it's a gamble. 

 

But the Prime Minister has clearly had enough of the present situation at Westminster, feels the Country deserves better, wants as good an armoury as possible in the fight to come in Brussels (and that is a National, not Party, need), and wants her own personal mandate for governing as opposed to an inherited one........and will never again be in as strong a position. 

Gordon Brown flunked it, back in Autumn 2007. This Prime Minister has not. But I feel the result will not be as clear cut as she would wish; she'll be returned as PM alright, but with the massive majority the polls are suggesting? I have my doubts. We shall see in just a few weeks' time as to whether the gamble pays off.