Theresa May issued a cryptic warning on Thursday that if her Withdrawal Agreement continues to be voted down she would consider calling a snap election. Understandably the media this weekend was brimming with speculation about the likelihood and possible consequences of going to the country.
Of course, anything is possible, but here are seven reasons why the Conservatives would be extremely unwise to call a General Election.
- It is unlikely to break the impasse: the latest Election Prediction from Martin Baxter at www.electoralcalculus.co.uk puts the Conservatives some 19 seats short of a majority, with around ten fewer MPs than they currently have.
- If it did change anything, it probably won’t be in the Tories’ favour. The last time Theresa May led a General Election campaign she frittered away a 20 point-plus lead. Moreover, around two-thirds of Conservative voters voted to leave the EU, so why would they vote for the Party when many of its MPs are seen to have tried to frustrate that outcome?
- Of all the possible Brexit next steps, calling a General Election is the least popular with the public overall (ComRes, January 2019).
- More problematic still is that a General Election would be, by a huge margin, the least popular outcome for 2017 Conservative voters, 60% of whom want No Deal and only 4% want a General Election.
- It will rack up an unwarranted bill to the taxpayer of £150m, rising to £250m-plus if we hold elections to the European Parliament in May.
- It would make no sense to make a decision over a General Election before the local elections on 2 May.
- Voters would likely seek to punish established parties, but especially the party of government, for what many see as an abject failure by a self-serving political system that has put personal ambition and dogma ahead of the national interest.
Of course, calling an election would also require a majority of MPs to vote for it – or at least their acquiesce. Perhaps threatening it is more about trying to frighten rebellious Tory MPs into supporting the Deal. Either way, Downing Street is playing with fire…