Sunday, September 15, 2019

Why Boris Johnson wants an election and Jeremy Corbyn doesn't

These days, I only keep half an eye on the embarrassing Brexit hornet's nest that continues to unfold in Britain under Boris Johnson. I have long given up on expecting anything sensible to happen there, and I don't have any expectations of a miraculous resolution to the seemingly insoluble snafu they have dug themselves into.
But, among all the Byzantine and ever-changing complications of the issue, I have been trying to get my head around one particular issue: why doesn't Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn want a general election? After all, he was constantly calling for just such an election not that long ago. What has changed? Why wouldn't any opposition party be salivating at the prospect of an election that might bring them to power? Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, a two-thirds majority is needed to change the election date from the fixed 5 year date, and Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and assorted dissident Tories could probably swing that if they wanted.
But why would Boris Johnson want to risk his current leadership position and call a general election? Isn't that counterintuitive? As far as I can tell, it's just a last-ditch desperate attempt to surround himself with enough Conservative MPs who are in favour of a no-deal come-what-may Brexit, to end the present stalemate on the issue. Currently, his party no longer has a majority in Parliament, and several Tory MPs have come out in favor of extending the deadline to negotiate a deal with the EU, something Johnson says he will never do. He seems confident that he could win a majority again in a general election,although in reality that is far from assured.
As for why Labour is opposing an early election,well, the first thing to unpack is that not all Labour politicians agree. Several Labour MPs and some of the large, powerful Labour-affiliated unions are in fact in favour of an election as soon as possible. But Corbyn and probably a majority of Labour members are currently opposing such a call.
The bottom line seems to be that Labour DOES want a general election but not at the expense of a no-deal Brexit. Alm the agonizing on the question within the opposition camps revolves around the timing of the election, and whether or not it should be delayed until after the 31st October Brexit deadline, so that Prime Minster Boris Johnson cannot repeal the recently passed legislation banning a no-deal Brexit, especially given that no-one trusts Johnson to do what he says he will do.
Johnson himself suggested a 15th October election, but in the latest vote, on 9th September, Labour abstained en masse rather than allow an early election, effectively kicking the can a bit further down the road. Johnson then took the contentious step of proroguing Parliament until 14th October, just two weeks before the final EU deadline, so there is now no possibility of an election before November.
This is all dangerous brinkmanship within a whole campaign of brinkmanship on both sides. I'm not sure you can say that the two sides are just "playing politics" - heartfelt opposing beliefs about Brexit are driving everything at the moment - but it sure looks that way sometimes.

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