It ain’t going to happen, but let me tell you who a snap election favours

By Chris Rogers July 12, 2016 1:34 pm

So, David Cameron’s out and Theresa May is in. In a flurry of activity yesterday that will have left many political hacks gasping for breath and most members of the public with near whiplash at the speed of developments, the Tory leadership contest ended with a rather muted thud as opposed to a bang.

Privately, I suspect, many within the Conservatives will be somewhat relieved to be spared a protracted contest that risked exacerbating the tensions within the Party that have risen over recent months. They will instead welcome an undoubted political heavyweight into Downing Street, and take a measure of glee in the Labour saga that turned a new page yesterday as Angela Eagle launched a leadership bid in what swiftly became an almost empty room.

The calls for Theresa May, as the incoming Prime Minister, to go to the country and call a General Election were as swift as they were predictable. Her political opponents jabbed fingers at Mrs May’s comments from 2007, when she insisted Gordon Brown should call an election having succeeded Tony Blair.

Many of us will likely have changed our minds on views we expressed nearly a decade ago, so while critics’ views have foundation, we should not be surprised if Mrs May does not – as she has insisted is the case – call for a General Election. She is after all a senior member of the Party elected by majority barely 12 months ago. But, for all the demands for a new ballot, ultimately it would solve little purpose beyond testing the patience of an electorate exhausted by the EU referendum. And politicos demanding an election perhaps miss a fundamental point that the most likely beneficiaries of a further poll would be the Conservatives themselves.

Why? Well, from the perspective of the SNP, as Chris Whitehouse noted last week, they’ve already hit their high water mark in Scottish constituencies. In fact, they lost their majority in the Scottish Parliament earlier this year to a small Conservative resurgence. There’s little progress for the SNP to make in a General Election, and a ballot could actually harm their parliamentary presence and damage their calls for a second independence referendum.

The Liberal Democrats might have some success winning back ground so dramatically lost in 2015. But it’s unlikely the reward would represent a fair return for the amount they would have to put into a campaign – and this would be because they would be fighting both Labour and UKIP for seats they might expect to take off the former.

UKIP, on first inspection a likely beneficiary of an election following the vote to leave Europe, remains in a state of flux and awaiting the election of their own new leader. So in the short term, they’re not well placed for an election campaign.

Finally, a snap election would be calamitous for Labour. In the first instance, who would be leading the charge given the imminent leadership contest? What platform would they run on? Would the leader – either Jeremy Corbyn or Ms Eagle – be able to unite all elements of the Party (from grass roots to parliamentary candidates) in such a short space of time? And, perhaps easily forgotten but most importantly, given the precarious nature of Labour finances, would the Party even be able to afford a campaign without saddling itself in debt and risking long-term financial problems?

It’s all a bit of a moot point, as Mrs May appears adamant she won’t call a General Election. But doubtless some strategist in CCHQ has been burning the midnight all considering how much the Tories could benefit from another election.

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