Thursday, 7 December 2017
Next Year is the Bookies Favourite for a UK General Election
With the UK Tory government mired in chaos over its approach to Brexit, it comes as hardly a surprise that the odds offered by the bookmakers for which year the next general election will take place in 2018, is the uniform favourite. This despite the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which in law, says the election should be in 2022. I think this reflects the widespread opinion that this law is not worth the paper it is written on. It was completely ignored by the prime minister, Theresa May, earlier this year when she successfully called an early general election.
Odds for a 2018 election are: Sky Bet 9/4, Ladbrokes 15/8, Coral 15/8, Betfair 19/10, William Hill 7/4, Boyle Sports 5/4, and Paddy Power even money. All short odds, but if are looking to have a flutter, Sky Bet is the most generous, or the least convinced that the election will be next year, to put it another way. Interestingly, the bookies are not offering any odds on which particular month next year will see a general election being held.
Minority UK governments have managed to cling on for years, Callaghan’s Labour government from 1976 to 1979, with the aid of the Lib/Lab pact and Cameron’s Tory government from 2010 to 2015 in coalition with the Lib Dems. The current Tory government only has a majority in Parliament cutesy of their ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement with Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whereby they guarantee to support the government on their budget and any votes of confidence. DUP support has now been thrown into doubt though, over the government’s post-Brexit proposals for keeping an open border between Northern Ireland and Eire.
The government finds itself in this parlous state, because Theresa May decided that calling the early general election this year, would increase her small majority inherited from her predecessor, David Cameron. With her hard Brexit approach and with the main opposition party in disarray, it looked a sure bet. It didn’t work out that way though, with the worse Tory election campaign I can remember and a surprisingly good one from the Labour Party.
My hunch is the British public were not inclined to give May such a free hand in deciding our future, and despite some reservations about Labour, wanted a hung Parliament. That was the result we got.
The government’s rank incompetence has been on full public display this week. First the prime minister thought she was going to get agreement with the European Union (EU) to move on from preliminary matters, to negotiating our future relationship with the organisation, once we leave.
In a farcical scene, May was dragged out of discussions with Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, to take a phone call from DUP leader, Arlene Foster, threatening to bring down her government, if she went ahead with plans to resolve the Irish border problem, by moving the border into the Irish Sea. Plans for a deal had to be shelved.
It is incredible that the proposals were not run by the DUP first, or not fully explained in private, to avoid such a public humiliation.
Then we had David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, being brought before a committee of MPs to answer why he had not complied with a Parliamentary vote requiring him to release the government’s impact assessments on what will happen when we leave the EU. His excuse was that, despite what he had said before, the government didn’t actually have any such assessments.
Next up came the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, appearing in front of a separate committee, where he disclosed that nearly a year and a half after the vote to leave the EU, the cabinet had yet to have a full discussion on what should be the government’s preferred “end state position” for the UK after Brexit. What on earth else can they have been talking about?
But it is not just the incompetence, the governing party is so split over the Brexit issue, together with not having a majority in Parliament, that they are completely paralysed. Nothing can be done by primary legislation (votes in Parliament) because the government is not confident of winning support from MPs.
They are trying to do some things by secondary legislation, which can be decided by ministers without approval by Parliament. The British constitution being as vague as it is, can be manipulated to allow ministers to do quite a lot and the government is trying abuse this as much as possible, but it is still limited. Can you name any new laws that have been passed since the general election? I don’t think there has been any, and I don’t expect anything substantial to be done in the near future.
We really can’t carry on like this, we need a government with a clear idea of what it wants to do, and a mandate from the people supportive of it. The only route to this is to call a general election early in the new year, and let the voters decide if any party deserves a mandate.