Ahead of a momentous week in British politics, the Prime Minister raised the stakes in his bid to implement his Brexit plan by threatening potential rebels with deselection in any future general election if they voted in favour of any anti no-deal legislation. This high-risk strategy dramatically increases the chance of the Conservatives’ losing their slim majority in the House of Commons, and subsequently, the chances of a general election in the coming weeks.
The Prime Minister’s latest move comes after a meeting scheduled over the past weekend between Boris Johnson and a group of would-be rebels was cancelled by the Prime Minister at the last minute.
It was expected that this meeting would see the Prime Minister reassure these MPs about his no-deal plans and address his increasingly downbeat attitude to agreeing a deal with the EU. Amongst this group is former Prime Minister Theresa May’s deputy David Lidington, the former justice secretary David Gauke and the former Chancellor Philip Hammond.
What’s the reaction been?
Similarly, to his decision to prorogue parliament, this too has proved polarising. Philip Hammond, the most senior of the potential rebels, accused the Prime Minister of ‘staggering hypocrisy’. This was based on Boris Johnson’s own opposition to and very public voting against Theresa May’s deal. Of his current cabinet, eight have rebelled against the government’s Brexit position so far this year.
David Gauke has accused the Prime Minister of attempting to ‘purge’ the party of those who oppose him. He stated his belief that it was a clear move to ‘reshape’ the Conservatives into the model of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, the biggest threat to the Conservatives’ voter base in any future election. David Gauke even went as far as to say he was fully prepared to lose his job over Brexit, citing his belief to put ‘national interest first’.
Why has Boris done this?
The Prime Minister’s move could possibly cost him his majority in the House of Commons, so why has he acted this way? Many political commentators and pundits are of the belief that it is another clear sign that he’s edging closer towards a general election.
Boris Johnson was selected by the Conservative Party members as he had such a strong position on Brexit and was prepared to play hardball with the EU to get a result. This week, a cross-party group of MPs will attempt to pass legislation that would prevent the government from taking the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31st October. If successful, then it would take the wind from Boris Johnson’s sails and derail his plans.
In this case, there is an increased chance of a general election happening sooner rather than later. Having banned rebels from standing for the Conservatives in such an election, he would then have them replaced with those loyal to his ‘do or die’ stance. This would, ideally, provide the Prime Minister with candidates capable of defeating the threat of the Brexit Party and give him the mandate he seeks.
The only issue with this plan is that those deselected candidates could still stand as independents and further split the Conservative’s voter base. This division would not provide any certainty and further alienate and polarise an electorate already suffering from ‘Brexit fatigue’.
Robert McConnell, Pinnacle Professional