THE BLOG

Election Fever

18/04/2017 16:48 BST | Updated 19/04/2017 08:56 BST
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The symptoms come on suddenly. Wild speculation, niche knowledge of obscure parts of the country, a rampant thirst for stats. Election fever will spread like wildfire across the nation over the coming weeks.

The announcement of a snap election is indeed exciting. However do not be misled by the pundits displays of 'shock' and 'surprise' this week. They are only surprised that they did not know. They are only surprised that Mrs May did not do it sooner. For the logic of going to the country is quite compelling on paper.

The Brexit negotiations are in motion with Article 50 now triggered, and they look as complicated as many expected them to be; the Labour Party are tanking; the SNP need to be distracted from their calls for another independence referendum; Northern Ireland is in turmoil; the Conservative slim majority allows for Tory troublemakers to make mischief on the backbenches; and the Lords have made it clear that they'll scrutinise every bit of legislation to the nth degree.

The above makes for good reasons to try and secure a bigger majority, a mandate from the country, and at least some certainty in uncertain times.

However, the above list also makes for a compelling list of reasons why not to go for an election now. I for one had assumed that the Prime Minister would wait until the boundary changes are clear later in the year, which would have given the Conservatives another 20 seats or so without barely firing a shot. Instead she is now going to be asking some of her party to campaign for seats that may cease to exist in the near future (not a great incentive for a passionate pitch to your constituents). The Brexit picture would also be a little clearer by then, so there would be something more concrete to take to the country (although of course that may be a good reason for doing it now too whilst it is unclear).

Beware those extolling the PM's inevitable 'thumping majority'. Despite the Labour Party's disarray, the Conservative's goal of a landslide is not as easily achieved as many would suggest. At best the Conservatives can hope to maybe win a couple of seats in Scotland - but it's probably more likely they won't win any, and the SNP will just consolidate their grip. Old Conservative alliances in Northern Ireland cannot be relied upon in the current political turmoil over there. That basically means that this election will be fought over England and Wales.

In that context, this slightly presumptuous election potentially plays into quite a few people's hands. The Conservatives will extend their majority, so they'll be happy. The Liberal Democrats actually have a proper platform to stand on in this election (i.e. no Brexit) which may win them seats back (which seemed a long way away until this week). And Labour 'moderates' will now have an unequivocal excuse to ditch Corbyn after he loses.

Labour will lose seats, probably quite badly. But it won't be a wipe out. There are culturally Labour votes in parts of England that will not be shifted, with or without Corbyn's leadership. When the inevitable flurry of Momentum-esque candidates put their heads above the parapet across the country - and get mowed down - the hard left agenda will have been firmly demonstrated as out of touch with the voting public. This will likely precipitate a period of reconciliation in the Labour Party (after regicide of course).

So once it's over we'll have a larger Conservative Party in the House of Commons who can get on with the 'job of Brexit', and the Lib Dems and Labour will be in a position to get on with their 2022 'fightback'.