Boris Johnson warns Tories to prepare for ‘tough’ election battle as MPs gear up for Christmas poll

Boris Johnson warned Conservative MPs they should prepare for a “tough” campaign after Parliament approved an early general election on Tuesday night.

Following his Commons victory on Tuesday - at the fourth time of asking - the Prime Minister sought to rally his party, telling MPs it was time to "get Brexit done”.

The one-page Bill enabling the election to be held on December 12 now goes to the House of Lords, but it is unlikely to be held up in the unelected upper chamber.

Once it receives the royal assent, it will pave the way for Parliament to be dissolved on November 6 marking the start of the campaign in earnest.

Ultimately, the Bill passed the Commons by 438 votes to 20 after a bid to alter the date, which Downing Street warned would scupper the whole thing, was rejected.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street on his way to the Houses of Parliament in London, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. Britain appeared on course Tuesday for an early general election that could break the country's political deadlock over Brexit, after the main opposition Labour Party said it would agree to the government's request to send voters to the polls in December.  (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Boris Johnson has sought to rally Tory MPs before a December General Election (AP)
In this image taken from video British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons, London, Tuesday Oct. 29, 2019. Britain is on course for a December general election after Jeremy Corbyn announced that Labour's conditions to back the move had been met. (House of Commons via AP)
MPs finally voted for the election that the Prime Minister craves (AP)

Election risk

The Conservatives go into the campaign in buoyant mood, with one opinion poll at the weekend putting them 16 points ahead of Labour.

However Mr Johnson cautioned his MPs against any complacency when it comes to the result.

He said: “It's time for the country to come together, get Brexit done and go forward. It'll be a tough election and we are going to do the best we can.”

Former prime minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons, London, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered a statement on his new Brexit deal.
Mr Johnson will be hoping to win back the majority lost by former PM Theresa May in 2017 (PA)

The Prime Minister is aiming to restore the Tories' Commons majority lost by Theresa May in 2107 so he can finally end three years of deadlock and get his Brexit deal through Parliament.

But there are risks in going to the country having failed to deliver on his promise to deliver Brexit by October 31 "do or die" and with Nigel Farage's Brexit Party denouncing his deal with Brussels.

A pre-Christmas poll could mean voter turnout will be depressed on the dark December nights while the Conservatives may also suffer at the ballot box if the NHS is hit by a winter flu crisis.

Leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn asks a question in the House of Commons in London Monday Oct. 21, 2019. Corbyn asked questions Monday after Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow rejected a government request for a meaningful vote on the government's Brexit deal with Europe. (House of Commons via AP)
Jeremy Corbyn finally backed an election after pressure from the Lib Dems and the SNP (AP)

Labour relent

Jeremy Corbyn sought to strike an upbeat note in his pitch to MPs and voters, saying the election offered a "once-in-generation" chance to transform the country.

It was the Labour leader's decision finally to back an election which enabled Mr Johnson to get it through the Commons.

He had been under intense pressure to relent after the Liberal Democrats and the SNP said at the weekend that they would be prepared to support a December poll.

However, many Labour MPs are deeply unhappy at the prospect fearing that they are heading for another election defeat.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn acknowledges supporters after he delivered a speech at the Grand Central Hall in Liverpool, after the Letwin amendment, which seeks to avoid a no-deal Brexit on October 31, was accepted by the House, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's statement in the House of Commons over his new Brexit deal.
Mr Corbyn said the election offered a 'once-in-generation' chance to transform the country (PA)

Only 127 of the party's 244 MPs voted for the election while more than 50 signed an amendment calling for the poll to be delayed until May 2020.

Mr Corbyn sought to characterise the election as a contest between Conservatives "who think they are born to rule" and Labour's programme of radical reform.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, he highlighted his plans to take rail, water and energy into public ownership while raising taxes on those "at the top" to invest in public services.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson during the election debate ahead of the vote in the House of Commons, London.
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said she was pitching herself as the next Prime Minister (PA)

‘Stop Brexit’

The Lib Dems go into the election confident their pro-Remain stance will see them pick up support with leader Jo Swinson pitching herself as "the Liberal Democrat candidate for prime minister".

"It is our best chance to elect a government to stop Brexit," she said.

For the SNP, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was an opportunity for Scotland to put an independence referendum back on the agenda.

"A win for the SNP will be an unequivocal and irresistible demand for Scotland's right to choose our own future," she said.

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