by GK Strategy 18th April, 2017
3 min read

General Election 2017 – GK’s analysis

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has announced her intention to hold a general election on Thursday 8th June. Tomorrow (19thApril), the House of Commons will vote to dissolve itself and hold the election – a two-thirds majority is required for an election to be called under the terms of the Fixed Term Parliament Act (2011). Labour and the Lib Dems have already said that they will vote for the election, so it is almost certain to be approved.

Parliament must dissolve at least 25 working days before the election. Therefore after Parliament’s vote tomorrow, it could remain sitting until the 3rd May at the latest, although parliamentary business could end earlier. After this, all parliamentary business will be suspended until after the election on 8th June. In the meantime, there will be a strange limbo period, when MPs are still expected to do their jobs in the House of Commons but all political focus will be on campaigning in their constituencies. The exact timetable is currently unclear but should be confirmed after the Government wins its vote in Parliament tomorrow. Once Parliament dissolves, we enter the election ‘purdah’ period which means the Government cannot announce new major policy announcements.

The logic for Theresa May calling the election is simple. With a majority of just 12 in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister only has a small majority to pass government business in Parliament. With the Great Repeal Bill set to incorporate EU law into British law, May is seeking to increase her majority to strengthen her power to determine what Brexit will look like. This is especially important given the substantial number of backbench Conservative MPs pushing for a so-called hard Brexit, with around 60 hard Brexit Tory MPs forcing the Prime Minister’s hand (far eclipsing the size of May’s majority). An election will also give the Conservative Government, if re-elected, a mandate to pass Brexit legislation in the House of Lords under the Salisbury Convention (whereby the Lords don’t oppose policies in a governing party’s manifesto); this is particularly important as the Government does not have a majority in the Lords and Labour and Lib Dems peers already delayed legislation that allowed the Government to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (the formal process for leaving the EU). The Prime Minister may also have an eye on Gordon Brown’s decision not to call an election in 2007 and be seeking to avoid his mistakes.

Current opinion polling suggests that the Conservatives, who enjoy a nearly 20 point lead over Labour, will be returned to Government with an increased majority, while the Liberal Democrats – who are committed to delaying and blocking Brexit – are also likely to make gains. Although UKIP no longer have any MPs to lose their seats, much of UKIPs vote will probably switch to May’s Conservative Party who are committed to delivering Brexit, which could increase the Conservative majority in many marginal seats. This is bad news for Labour, which is widely expected to lose several seats – a more or less unprecedented phenomenon for an opposition, with the recent exceptions of 2015 (due to the SNP landslide in Scotland), and 1983. Some polling indicates Labour falling to as few as 150 seats (smaller than the size of the party’s majority in 1997).

Votes are expected to swing away from Labour to the Conservatives based on the increase in Conservative vote share over Labour currently indicated in the polls. Brexit is the big issue of this election, however, and the electorate’s positions on Brexit does not split neatly along party lines. The Lib Dems, the only national party in Parliament whose leadership is opposed to Brexit – are expected to regain seats in their old heartlands in the south west of England. The Lib Dems will also do well in areas where the Remain vote polled high in last year’s referendum – look at the Lib Dem victory in the Richmond Park by-election last December, overturning a 23,000 Conservative majority. Meanwhile, Labour may do better than expected in Remain-leaning seats with a strong incumbent candidate, such as Brentford and Isleworth. It’s in seats outside London, with a narrow Labour majority and which strongly backed Leave last year, where sitting Labour MPs are most at risk. Labour, whose official line is “a better Brexit”, risked being squeezed between a pro-Leave Conservative Party and a pro-Remain Liberal Democratic Party.

The last two years in politics has taught us to take nothing for granted. All parties still need to select parliamentary candidates and decide manifestos. As party activists take to the streets ahead of 8th June, the result of the election will be determined over the campaign of the coming weeks.

If you would like any further information of have any questions about how this affects your organisation, please don’t get hesitate to get in touch at edward@gkstrategy.com.

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