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LONDON – The government has officially ruled out holding an early general election, despite rumoured pressure from senior figures in the Conservative Party on Prime Minister Theresa May to hold one in just six weeks time.
"There is no change in our position on an early general election. There isn't going to be one," a government spokesperson said on Monday morning.
"We have been clear there is not going to be an early general election and the prime minister is getting on with delivering the will of the British people."
The announcement comes on the same day that reports that three of the most senior members of the Tory Party are lobbying May to hold the vote.
Tory Party chairman Patrick McLoughlin, chief whip Gavin Williamson, and May's private secretary George Hollingbery have all discussed advising May to call a snap election on May 4, according to the Times.
The alleged thinking behind an early election is that a comfortable majority victory for the Conservatives — which polls currently suggest is the most likely outcome — would give May a much stronger hand in the Commons ahead of crucial votes on Brexit legislation and divisive policies like the ban on new grammar schools being lifted.
Downing Street has repeatedly ruled out an early election, but a number of Tory MPs have privately been encouraging Williamson to push the idea to the prime minister with a crushing victory over the Labour Party a strong possibility.
Jeremy Corbyn's Labour has been on "early election footing" since the end of last year in preparation for a 2017 general election, the party's chief elections strategist Andrew Gwynne said over the weekend.
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson told Sky News on Monday that he thinks the chances of an early election are high. "I think we're heading for an early UK election. I think it's more likely than not," he said.
If May does decide to call a snap election then she'll first have to find a way of overcoming the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which requires general elections to take place once every five years.
The prime minister would be able to circumvent this law at least two-thirds of MPs voted in favour of amending it.
Labour MP Gwynne told the BBC's Andrew Neil that it would be "difficult" for the party not to support a hold an early election as it would be an opportunity to remove the Tories from government.
"It would be very difficult not to because if the government wants to dissolve parliament, wants a general election, we don’t want the Tories to be in government, we want to be in government.
"We want to have an opportunity to put that case to the British people," he said.
Labour shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott told The Independent last week that her party would win an election "whenever" May decides to hold it, despite the party's continuing to trail the Tories by massive margins in opinion polls.
An Ipsos MORI survey published last week gave May's ruling Conservatives a 13-point lead over Labour.
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