POLITICS
05/09/2019 13:26 BST | Updated 05/09/2019 17:31 BST

Why Doesn't Labour Want A General Election?

And why is Boris Johnson so keen on one?

Hearing the words ‘general election’ a lot? Wondering what’s going on? If you can quash your (entirely rational) sense of foreboding for a few minutes, we shall try to explain. 

Who said general election in the what now? 

Buckle up, Brenda from Bristol. Boris Johnson, who this week officially lost his working majority in the Commons, wants to take back control by triggering a general election. But Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has denied him the opportunity.

Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act (FTPA), an election should only take place every five years, unless two-thirds of MPs agree to an early election.  

Doesn’t Corbyn really, really want general election? 

Yep, ever since Theresa May’s disastrous 2017 campaign which resulted in the Conservatives losing their majority, the Labour leader has been repeating iterations of “call a general election now and let the people decide”. 

Some context.... 

Brexit – or more specifically, MPs trying to block a no-deal Brexit – is complicating the issue. 

It won’t have escaped your notice that it has been a pretty extraordinary week in the Commons. Rebel Tories teamed up with Labour, the SNP and others to take control of the parliamentary agenda on Wednesday in order to pass new legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit.

It says that Johnson has until October 19 to either get a Brexit deal through or get MPs to approve a no-deal Brexit.

As it stands, the Article 50 deadline is October 31 and parliament will be shut down for five weeks between September 9 and October 14. 

Why does Boris Johnson want a snap election? 

The PM says there are no circumstances in which he will request an extension to the Article 50 Halloween deadline. 

He calls the legislation ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s surrender bill’ and says the people should have a chance to vote on the issue in a general election. 

Why has Jeremy Corbyn said no? 

Strictly speaking Labour’s response is better summed up as “not yet”. 

The government’s election motion named October 15 as the date the poll would be held. 

But opposition MPs think Johnson could use ministerial powers to move the date beyond the October 31 deadline. They fear that as a result the UK could be allowed to crash out without a deal during the campaign, when parliament isn’t sitting, and they would be powerless to stop it. 

In his response to Johnson, Corbyn said: “Let this bill pass and gain royal assent, then we will back an election so we do not crash out with a no-deal exit from the EU.” 

Royal assent is when the Queen officially signs legislation passed by both houses of parliament and it becomes law. 

The no-deal bill is expected to complete its journey through the House of Lords on Friday, so there is some way for it to go yet before MPs are assured. 

So, we will be having a general election anyway? 

The answer to this is almost certainly yes, but nobody yet knows when. 

Labour is still examining the prospect of backing Johnson’s October 15 date, if the bill passes and a no-deal Brexit is ruled out in law. 

They may also see the political advantage in forcing Johnson to seek the extension the Commons has imposed on him. 

It is also possible, however, that opposition MPs conclude they cannot trust Johnson to play by the rules and insist on a poll after the October 31 deadline has passed.