Boris is in, but it's likely he'll call a general election before Christmas
PUBLISHED: 19:33 25 July 2019 | UPDATED: 19:33 25 July 2019
Like it or not Boris Johnson is the UK's new prime minister and, as Iain Dale says, there's more chance than not that he will call a general election before the year is out
When your esteemed editor asked me to commence this weekly column at the end of last year, he urged me to write a political column with a bit of edge, but to try to bring in a local angle wherever possible.
I fear in the next few months I may disappoint on the latter. Why? Because we are entering the most crucial 97 days of this country's post-war peacetime history. A new premiership was launched on Wednesday evening and since then the prime minister has lost little time in making abundantly clear that the promise he made during the leadership campaign to leave the European Union come what may on October 31 is not only still valid, but he really means it.
Boris Johnson has formed a cabinet with one aim. To bring that about by any means possible. Good. Because if we do not leave on October 31 many people reading this column will decide there is no longer any point in taking part in the democratic process ever again. And if they do, they won't be voting for either of the two biggest, traditional parties. He has foreseen the dire consequences for the Conservative Party if he fails in his mission, but it goes deeper than sectional party-political interests.
If we don't come out on October 31 it would further entrench the view that all politicians are only in it for themselves and lead to calls from the Brexit Party to 'clean house' and sweep away the entire political class. In a strange sort of way, a failure by Boris Johnson to deliver on this promise would be manna from heaven for Nigel Farage and turbocharge the electoral fortunes of the Brexit Party in any ensuing general election.
Make no mistake, Brenda in Bristol may well be about to go into a state of apoplexy over the prospect of a forthcoming general election. Yes, another one. I'd say the odds on another election before Christmas are now higher than 50-50.
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There are three scenarios:
1 Polls show a Boris bounce (there is no evidence of this yet, but it's early days) and he calls an election when parliament returns in early September, to take place in mid-October, by use of a constructive vote of confidence, which Labour would have to support.
2 Boris Johnson finds that parliament frustrates him on leaving on October 31 so calls a single-issue election in which he seeks a mandate for no deal.
3 We leave on October 31 and the prime minister calls a so-called 'Khaki election' to capitalise on the success on the basis that Brexit Party supporters will return to their natural electoral home.
The prime minister's cabinet has certainly grabbed the headlines over the last 48 hours. For MPs from the eastern counties it was very much steady as she goes. The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, retained his job, as did health secretary Matt Hancock. Early Boris backer Liz Truss was promoted to international trade secretary, while Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis survived the Boris cull and attends cabinet as security minister at the Home Office. The only fresh cabinet blood from the region was provided by two Essex MPs, James Cleverly, who replaces Brandon Lewis as party chairman, and Priti Patel, who controversially takes over at the Home Office.
Seventeen cabinet ministers were either sacked or they voluntarily resigned. This is dangerous territory for a prime minister who enjoys a majority of just three. He has almost created a government in exile on the backbenches, with Jeremy Hunt and Penny Mordaunt becoming the king and queen over the water. And when the previous ultra-loyalist MP Keith Simpson starts to revel in his new life as a rebel, you have to wonder how Boris Johnson will get anything through the Commons. Another reason why a general election cannot be far away.
Email Iain at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @iaindale