Thursday, 9 November 2017

Theresa May – For the Good of the Country, Call a General Election

We really can’t go on like this. Two Cabinet ministers resigned in a week, first the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, amid allegations of sexual harassment, and yesterday Priti Patel, the Foreign Aid Secretary, after revelations that she was making free-lance unofficial foreign policy at meetings with Israeli government officials and the prime minister. On its own this is bad enough for the government, but there is more.

Two further Cabinet ministers have question marks against them. Damian Green, effectively the deputy prime minister, is facing allegations of sexual harassment and downloading porn onto his workplace computer.

The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, made inaccurate remarks to a House of Commons committee about a British national held in prison in Iran, which has prompted the Iranians to consider increasing her sentence from five to ten years on espionage charges. Johnson is of course no stranger to making free-lance foreign policy as well, such as his recent piece in The Telegraph setting out his red lines for Brexit negotiations. Both ministers are on shaky ground.

Several MPs are also facing allegations of sexual harassment, and more serious sexual assaults, from other political parties too, but mainly Tories. The government is unable to get much policy through Parliament, reliant as they are on the votes from the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which covers only supporting government Budget votes and votes of confidence in the government.

This situation could well get worse if several Tory MPs are forced to resign from Parliament and their replacements lose subsequent by-elections. The government is deeply divided on their approach to Brexit and has a prime minister who’s authority is in tatters after the disastrous June general election where May lost her majority in Parliament. There is a good chance the Tories will lose any by-elections that are forced into, making matters even more unstable.

All of this against a backdrop of a sluggish economy, rising inflation, wages falling for most people, the NHS in crisis, homelessness up sharply and the ongoing dog’s breakfast that is the government’s negotiations with the European Union on our exit from the organisation. A government drifting rudderless, battered about by scandals, incompetence and political events. This government is a national and international laughing stock.

So, what is to be done? Tory MPs are briefing journalists that May has until Xmas to turn things around, before a formal challenge to her leadership is launched. Reports say that now 40 of the required 48 Tory MPs are prepared to support a challenge. But this wouldn’t really change the fundamentals for the government though, just the front person. The country would be no further forward.

There seems to be only one option left for Theresa May, to call a general election. Given we are close to Xmas, in reality this would have to be in the new year, preferably earlier rather than later in the new year. This fits with Tories giving May until Xmas to get a grip, so she could call an election before rebel MPs have the chance of challenging her leadership in a vote of confidence. It would pull the rug from beneath the rebels.

There is the thorny issue of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, but it didn’t stop May calling a general election this year, although the situation is very different now. Two thirds of MPs would need to approve of an election taking place, which many may not be happy about. But all things are possible at the moment.

The advantage for the prime minister, is that she might win a majority this time and restore some authority to her premiership. This seems unlikely though. But even if she lost the election and the opposition formed a government, at least her personal torment would be ended. 

Either way the status quo is profoundly damaging to the country, so the patriotic thing to do, is to give the people the opportunity to back or sack the government. The county's interests need to be put above the interests of the Tory party. Be bold Mrs May, just do it.

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