I have blogged quite a lot about how the new Conservative (Tory) Party leadership would take the earliest opportunity, presented by a disorganised and fractured Labour Party, to call an early election. I have been much exercised by the thought that Jeremy Corbyn, and the Labour Party, would be bounced into an early election they were ill-equipped to fight. Mea culpa – I had failed to check my information.
Apparently it is still possible, but unlikely. Here is why. Before the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, a General Election could happen any time. A Prime Minister could call a general election at any time within the five year period and not all Parliaments lasted the full five years. Before 2011 a general election could be called earlier for a number of reasons. For example, the Prime Minister could decide to call an election at a time when he or she was most confident of winning the election or if a government was defeated on a confidence motion, a general election could follow. The 2011 Act changed all that.
The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 provides for general elections to be held on the first Thursday in May every five years. The date of the last general election was 7 May 2015 so the next one would normally be on the first Thursday of May 2020.
However, there are two provisions that could trigger an election sooner:
- if a motion of no confidence is passed in Her Majesty’s Government by a simple majority and 14 days elapses without the House passing a confidence motion in any new Government formed
- a motion for a general election is agreed by two thirds of the total number of seats in the Commons including vacant seats (currently 434 out of 650)
In the context of an, as yet, unresolved BREXIT it is possible that Parliament will have to debate, and decide on, the negotiation to disentangle the UK from the EU. That might easily trigger an election under either of these two provisions. The Conservatives have quite a slender majority in Parliament. It is possible that this majority could erode to the point where there is a minority government that consistently fails to get measures endorsed, and this might lead to an election under the second of the two provisions – although HM The Queen would first have to offer an opportunity to another grouping to form a government without an election first.
So, I admit to having to reconsider. There actually may be time for the Labour Party to get itself together, even behind Jeremy Corbyn, in time to win the next election. My concern remains that whoever wins the Leadership election in August 2016, a sizeable part of the party (those supporting the loser) will be disappointed and remain fractious, rebellious, . Internal divisions may continue. That must not happen. It is absolutely vital that the party membership, and its Parliamentary representation, comes together to support whoever is leader – or it faces a generational period in the political wilderness.