OPINION - The public wants an early general election – here’s 75 reasons it won’t get one

·3-min read
 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

Vote Blair, Get Brown“. That was the slogan adopted by sections of the media and even the Tories for a period in the run-up to the 2005 general election.

Of course, by 2007 when the maxim came to pass, the Conservatives had somewhat changed their tune. In fact, a certain Theresa May claimed that Gordon Brown “did not have a mandate and wasn’t elected as prime minister“. How things change.

It’s tricky because on the one hand, the well-informed British public votes for its local representative (or party), not leaders. And our prime ministers are no more directly elected than the most anonymous of backbench MPs.

But on the other hand, prime ministers with large parliamentary majorities possess immense power, both in terms of patronage over their party and over the country at large. It is for that very reason a leader’s character, probity and likability (link to a stone-cold classic) are central factors in voters’ minds.

Indeed, the simple mathematics that turns party leaders into prime ministers sometimes leads to difficult choices. Recall the time in 2017 when numerous Labour MPs were reassuring their constituents they could vote for them safe in the knowledge that Jeremy Corbyn could not win, a position with a core contradiction on which we don’t have time to dwell.

All this is to say that Brenda from Bristol be damned, an exclusive Ipsos MORI poll in today’s Standard shows that a majority of voters would like an early general election. The figures include even a plurality of Conservative 2019 voters.

This will not happen for the same reason that Liz Truss pulled out of her interview with the BBC’s Nick Robinson. It would be all downside with no upside. The UK is likely heading into a recession. The NHS is being held together with duct tape and baling wire. And the Tories have spent the last two months writing Labour’s election leaflets. This autumn is not a propitious moment for an election.

Boris Johnson may be nearly gone, but he is bequeathing his successor a working majority of 75, the largest won by the Conservatives since 1987. Even if you’ve never kissed a Tory, that would be a terrible thing to waste.

And while a Labour victory at the next election is by no means inevitable (I mean, have you met the Labour Party?) it is equally difficult to conceive of any Conservative leader surpassing or even securing half of what he achieved in 2019.

By this time next week, Britain will have welcomed its 15th occupant of Number 10 Downing Street since 1945. And of those 15, nine will have initially assumed the office without winning a general election. Truss will have to call one eventually. But she’s not going to risk becoming the shortest-serving prime minister ever. And even George Canning did not exactly give the gig up voluntarily, dying as he did of tuberculosis in 1827

Elsewhere in the paper, the scenes coming out of Pakistan are gut-wrenching. More than 1,000 people have died, hundreds of thousands displaced and entire villages washed away. Sherry Rehman, minister for climate change, has called it a “climate dystopia at our doorstep”, adding that a third of the country could be under water by the time the rain ceases.

In the comment pages, sitting on a growing mountain of student debt. Emma Loffhagen looks on in envy at Joe Biden’s university loans plan.

While ‘Bonfire of The Bankers’ type headlines are not written in sympathy but we may be on the cusp of a major round of City worker jobs cuts, warns Simon English.

And finally, 20,000 hidden swimming pools have been found in France thanks to new AI technology. It is set to be a boon for the French state, now raking in millions of euros from homeowners who failed to report the facilities.

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