A general election will be triggered in the next 12 months as Brexit will end Theresa May’s premiership, Number 10′s former policy chief has predicted.
George Freeman told HuffPost UK’s politics podcast, Commons People, that he believes there are two post-EU withdrawal scenarios which would see the Tories call a fresh vote.
The first would be under the weight of public pressure following a catastrophic no-deal Brexit in the spring – after which Labour would win the keys to Downing Street.
The second would be in October, when the UK had left the EU with a deal and the Conservatives emerge from a summer “clear out” having elected a new “next generation” leader.
It comes after the prime minister survived a vote of no-confidence by telling her MPs she would step down before the next election, which as it stands may not take place until 2022.
“I don’t think there is a mood for a general election but I do think we will have one within a year,” he said.
“It’s fatal to make predictions but I do think December, January, February, March, this [Brexit] crisis will continue.
“At the end of it there will either be a no-deal Brexit carnage, from which the governing party won’t recover, in which case I think there will be a general election in the spring, early summer, which I fear Jeremy Corbyn would win.”
He went on: “Let’s assume we get a deal, I think Theresa May [...] will go whenever we tap her on the shoulder after March.
“I think then what will and should happen is the Europeans will go off and have elections [...] and we will then have a proper Conservative leadership election, for a post-Brexit withdrawal, new generation Conservative who can reunite this party, this country.”
He added: “I think then we will come back to parliament in October, and it will be clear after about five days that there is no majority and we need a general election.”
Tory big hitters Sajid Javid, Penny Mordaunt and Dominic Raab were frontrunners for the top job, the Mid Norfolk MP said, adding that he hoped as many as ten people would throw their hat in the ring.
“There are people in the cabinet who aren’t tainted by this mess,” he said, appearing to favour Home Secretary Sajid Javid for the role, citing his handling of the Windrush generation immigration crisis.
“He would be an extraordinary moment for the Conservative Party - the first muslim Conservative Party leader, son of an immigrant bus driver who made it the hard way - that’s an impressive story in itself.”
He went on: “Penny Mordaunt voted for Brexit, which in the Conservative Party is helpful. She’s ex armed forces. She’s very strong on the soul of modern politics.
“And I think Dominic Raab, in a party that is largely in a country that is wanting to see Brexit delivered and espoused by somebody who really believes in it, I’m sure Dominic would have a message.”
But Freeman predicted months of “very ugly” chaos in parliament before March, which would only end with “a national unity Brexit” made possible with the backing of Labour MPs.
“I think the government will have to lose several votes,” he said. “We are only in the foothills of the parliamentary manoeuvering and my prediction is that we will end up with a Brexit voted through at the last minute with a cross-party alliance of MPs.”