There is much idle talk amongst political commentators about a General Election being just around the corner. Why would the Conservatives, who have just been caught out badly with an unnecessary election, risk another one? In May Labour appeared to be way behind in the polls, now they are level pegging and would probably emerge the largest party.
The argument goes that they would have to hold an election if they changed Prime Minister. This is nonsense. Mrs May is looking more confident and cheerful since her coughing fit in Manchester. It wouldn’t surprise me if she sacks Boris Johnson and Phil Hammond in a reshuffle. But let us suppose for a moment that the Grant Shapps of this world haven’t gone away and force a leadership election. In my view the next Tory Prime Minister takes office and carries on. There is no constitutional requirement to go to the country, nor is there any precedent since 1955 when Eden took over from Churchill and went straight into a General Election.
Since then there have been four occasions when the Prime Minister has changed during a parliament. In 1963 Lord Home (the Jacob Rees Mogg of his day) succeeded Harold Macmillan and waited for the scheduled General Election in 1964. Jim Callaghan took over from Harold Wilson in 1976 and served for three years till defeated in a vote of no confidence. John Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher in 1990 and served out the rest of her term before winning the scheduled election in 1992. The Prime Minister most under pressure to seek a fresh mandate was Gordon Brown, but in 2007 he finally decided not to risk it.
Some say the Democratic Unionist Party will renounce their deal with the Tories if the Brexit negotiations require the island of Ireland to be treated as one entity for customs purposes. Possibly, but when will things ever be so good for the DUP again? It will be a long time before they get a billion pounds from a British political party again.
I expect this government to totter on hopelessly divided on Brexit and incapable of a proper negotiation with the European Union. Hopefully there will be a massive change in public opinion on leaving the EU. Then all bets will be off for the future shape of politics in Britain.
The Catalonia Conundrum
I normally have a settled opinion on most political issues but the Catalonia demand for independence really leaves me hopelessly on the fence.
I believe in a European Union where the regions of individual countries have powerful devolved government to bring decision making close to the people and to tackle inequalities like the North South divide. That is why I believed in John Prescott’s model of development agencies held accountable by assemblies.
But regional government should be about those principals of more equal wealth distribution within countries. The Catalan region is the wealthiest in Spain and many supporters of independence don’t want to share their prosperity with poorer areas. In Italy the Northern League have the same attitude to the south of their country.
One thing I am sure of is that using violence against the Catalan people or suspending their devolved powers will solve nothing.
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