There may be a snap election – your country needs you to do your duty


The key question on the mind of most journalists is whether Theresa May will call a snap general election. Personally as a supporter of fixed term parliaments I would not be in favour of this as we have had enough uncertainty of late.

Yet, there are very powerful reasons why she might do, which relate to the strength of our democracy.

Firstly the awkward squad of right wing Eurosceptics has far too much leverage in a government with a majority  of just 12. A group of 25 Tory Brexiteers in the Commons (2016 lexicon for those Major called bastards) are already meeting to try to form a policy which would aim to minimise immigration at the expense of our membership of the single market. I am not too old to remember the paralysis and internal division of the Major government over Europe and he had a bigger majority than May does. Indeed we know that Boris and Liam Fox have already began a spat worthy of my six and four year old girls over who should have the ability to call decisions in the Foreign Office. Mother May it would appear, was not amused.

If Theresa May were to call an election and win big, then she would have a comfortable majority to work with where she could come up with a Brexit Strategy without the influence of the awkward squad. I am not sure the City or most international busineses would be happy seeing their role dimminished just to enable the sulky teenagers IDS, Fox and David Davis get what they want when it comes to immigration (i.e. bringing numbers down to the impractical tens of thousands level promised by Cameron).

If there were such an election, it would also inevitably lead to a collapse in Labour’s vote and see them lose more than 50 and maybe even as many as 100 MPs. This would enable Labour moderates to finally remind Corbyn, Abbott and McDonnell that Labour is not, never has been and never will be on a path to victory under Corbyn.

It might even prompt the split in Labour which is so desperately needed. It could lead to a sensible centrist party forming which could become the official opposition, which is why Paddy Ashdown has started the More United Movement to crowd fund pro-European moderate candidates.

We may have voted for Brexit, but no Leave politician (indeed most Leave voters I have spoken to) can tell us exactly it means. Dan Hennan MEP and arch Tory Brexiteer has claimed that it is vital we get back our blue passports.

As the economy slides back to zero growth, Hennan is like a pilot of a plane with one engine  who wants to finish 9 down on the Times crossword rather than flying the plane out of trouble.

We are in unchartered waters, but we should not give up. A year ago I joined the Lib Dems, the one party which is committed to Europe. I started an ordinary member, have been asked to stand to be a Councillor and have passed an assessment to enable me to stand for Westminster. There is nothing to stop others from doing the same.

The UK is suffering from a crisis of leadership and ordinary people with real lives are more important than ever in helping to build a more united and prosperous country now we have voted for Brexit. If that snap election happens and you are worried about the future then have a go. You might regret it if you don’t.

* Chris Key is dad of two girls, multilingual and internationalist. He is a Lib Dem member in Twickenham who likes holding the local council and MPs to account.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Sorry but I have no desire to see being a moderate or a centrist as a virtue. If ever there was a time for presenting ourselves as a progressive alternative to Labour on the left (OK centre-left, if you must) it is now.
    Meanwhile if we have to home in on Corbyn’s weaknesses we need more grown-up responses than he will get from the Tories. Learn from the criticism he gets from his own left-wingers (e.g. he is lousy at chairing meetings) and put forward people for election who are committed to more collaborative, inclusive ways of doing politics.

  • No snap election. Almost impossible under the present legislation. The government would have to twice conjure up a vote of no confidence in itself, which would make it look a bit stupid to say the least. So no election then?

  • Once again, the PM does not, thanks to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011, have the legal ability to “call a snap general election” prior to 2020, rendering every single one of the five hundred ninety-one words painfully inscribed above completely nugatory.

  • Leaving aside how difficult it would be to engineer an early election, I do not think an election would be viable without a formulated Brexit plan. Of course with the current state of the Labour party and this party’s diminished standing, it can seem that nothing should be ruled out.

    If the right wing ‘b’ stards’ did create havoc, which I think would be after a plan were formulated and quite likely after activating Article 50, then there could be a showdown. The future problem for May is that Brexit has disrupted the parliamentary cycle, threatening a 2020 election that coincides severe economic and political problems.

    Geoff Reid: Lib Dems do have some markedly radical (lefty if you must) tendencies and factions, that are in my opinion quite different in origin to those from Labour, but with Corbyn fuddling at the tiller there is no point in arguing the toss on his political patch. Although temperamentally I would like to agree with you, when the alternatives are rabidly polarised, moderation and even centrism do look like virtues. Really it should be Liberalism, but if that gets ascribed as centre left, so be it.

  • Once again, the PM does not, thanks to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011, have the legal ability to “call a snap general election” prior to 2020

    I fully expect repealing the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act to be in the next Queen’s Speech.

    But even failing that, she can table a vote that there be a new election. That would require a two-thirds majority; both Labour and the Lib Dems have said that there ought to be a new election, so neither can consistently vote against it, and together with the Conservatives that is more than a two-thirds majority.

    An early general election may not happen. But it is a distinct possibility.

  • To create two votes of no confidence in yourself would make the government look ridiculous. Election will be in 2020 unless it loses it’s majority

  • markfairclough 20th Aug '16 - 3:05pm

    With the Tories having a majority of 10 I did think there would be a general in October but thanks to the Labour leadership election I think it will be on the 1st Thursday in May 2017

  • Jenny Barnes 20th Aug '16 - 3:46pm

    Uncharted, not unchartered

  • Presumably a repeal of the FTPA would have to go through the House of Lords before the Commons could insist on it. It seems unlikely that the Conservatives would get a majority for a short term political expedient like that and so any bill would likely be delayed there for at least a year.

  • David Allen 20th Aug '16 - 7:10pm

    The Tories believe in doing just what they like, in the good old Bullingdon tradition, never mind what the rules might appear to say. If they wanted a snap election, they would have one, and the more they would have to ride roughshod over legalistic opposition, the keener they would be to do so. It’s a matter of asserting psychological dominance. The Tories are very well aware that if they lost the aura of dominance, people might wake up to the fact that they only truly represent their millionaire donors, and that they’re not very good at governing.

    But do they want a snap election? We and everyone else would immediately charge them, not without justice, of running away from Brexit. We would say they were scared, that they had no plan, that they wanted to get another five years before they had to admit that they didn’t have a clue what to do with it. They could lose. That’s why they probably won’t do it.

  • Repealing the Fixed Term Parliament Act would require winning votes in the Lords, and legally is rather tricky to do (as it’s unclear how you restore the Royal Prerogative simply by repeal – plenty of expert lawyers think it wouldn’t be).

    Which leaves winning a 2/3rd majority or a government no confidencing itself – more details at

  • I think that May must be very tempted to call the snap election. Ironic that she called for Brown to call one in 2007. Will see if she does as she told him to do !

  • It seems unlikely that the Conservatives would get a majority for a short term political expedient like that

    Quite the reverse: the FTPA was the short-term political expedient to bind the coalition parties together, and May can say that now those unusual circumstances are over it is clear that fixed-term parliaments unnecessarily hamstring the government’s ability to function (eg, by stopping a government with an unworkably small majority going back to the country, possibly leading to years of political deadlock) and that the FTPA, as hastly and ill-thought-through legislation, should be repealed.

    (as it’s unclear how you restore the Royal Prerogative simply by repeal – plenty of expert lawyers think it wouldn’t be

    Don’t see how that works — that would mean repealing the FTPA (which must be possible as no parliament can bind its successor) would leave the UK with no way to dissolve a parliament, and that makes no sense.

  • Labour MPs would have to vote for it. They’re not that suicidal – yet

    I thought Labour had called for May to hold an election? Am I wrong about that? If they have, surely they must vote for one if given the chance?

    I assume the Lib Dems will vote for an election, as Tim Farron has called for one. Not that the Lib Dems are relevant to anything.

  • According to YouGov, those that voted from Brexit still want it and of the 48% who voted remain, 49% now accept that the will of the majority should be enacted. 45% of those who voted remain want parliament to effectively over rule the referendum putting support for leaving at 69% and support for using the oddities of FPTP to overturn the will of the majority at 22%.

    For the options of what Britain’s relationship with the EU should look like after Brexit, the Canadian option has the most public support.

    There are two questions I’d like to ask the Lib Dem members about this, because it seems like they are trying to square a circle here:

    1. The Lib Dem manifesto has a pledge to have a referendum on Europe, albeit under different circumstances, but the principle is the same, the people should get to make the final decision it via a referendum. Was this promise insincere, did the party really have no intention of ever agreeing to a referendum on membership of the EU?

    2. If FPTP is wrong because it leads to parliament not representing what people actually voted for and should therefore be replaced with PR, then why would it be OK if the Lib Dems if they gained a majority at Westminster with 37% of the vote to overturn a democratic decision backed by 52% of the voters.

    From the outside looking in it looks to me like the lib dems never had any intention of allowing a referendum that on membership of the EU and now that it has happened regardless they just seem to be seeking to overturn the result in anyway they can.

  • Yes you are wrong

    Well, even so — for them to vote against would be effectively to say they are not ready to be a goverment, and would be used against them in 2020. You can just imagine the ads: ‘In 2017, Labour said they weren’t ready to run Britain. Why don’t you ask them what’s changed?’

  • Chris Rennard 20th Aug '16 - 11:37pm

    It would not be as difficult or problematic as some people suggest for Theresa May to cause a vote of no confidence in her own Government. It would be argued that it was a technical vote only in order to give the country a chance to endorse a new PM/new Government programme/new approach to Brexit etc. Repeal of the Fixed Term Parliament Act would be difficult and time consuming. A two-thirds majority for an election may even be possible given the stated position of Labour & the Lib Dems. But most likely that if an election is wanted whilst the PM is new and Labour are in disarray, then it can be brought about. But any General Election before Autumn 2018 would be held on the same boundaries as in 2015. I had a letter about this issue here:

  • It would be argued that it was a technical vote only in order to give the country a chance to endorse a new PM/new Government programme/new approach to Brexit – Chris Reynard

    Interesting to have the view of a Westminster insider and it wold be interesting if Chris Reynard could expand on the technicalities of the process, because even though I think he is right, my impression is that the process would still be messy.

    None the less, it is the last part of this statement that is as yet an overwhelming impediment, “to endorse a new … approach to Brexit”. So long as there is no plan that is both agreed amongst the Conservative Party and has some sort of veneer of coherence, an election would be unlikely, difficult to defend and risky in terms of Tory Party management. The trouble is that if a plan is eventually formulated, although it would be easier to justify an election, it would be likely to stir Tory discontent, as it would expose the divisions on Brexit.

  • There cannot legally be a snap election even if May was willing to risk being the shortest tenured PM in memory or she was daft enough to want to increase her awkward squad by few dozen. Her strength lies in a narrow majority keeping her party together. She’s not going to risk failure with any attempt to get around the FTPA. She will doubtless be highly amused by opponents thinking she might and running around like headless chickens as a consequence. As to a Government voting no confidence in itself, even assuming the Speaker allowed it, it’s a ludicrous suggestion. How do you run a campaign when you’ve just declared yourself incompetent? It’s a massive risk.

    Why on earth this party’s leadership wants an early election costing millions when we sit at 8% nationally and hold Brexit majority seats, with a policy to ignore the result, is beyond me. Political suicide and Tim can hardly resign as leader if he’s the only one left.

    There isn’t a crisis of leadership, neither is the economy in a state of collapse despite nightly prayers by Brexit deniers. May is undisputed leader, she’s playing an extremely clever Brexit strategy letting the Three Stooges fail in order to sterilise them, the stock markets are soaring, interest rates are down not up, unemployment is down, and Sterling has only dropped to 2013 levels but enough to help exports. Hyperbolic claims won’t win voters back. Health, housing, transport infrastructure, sustainable migration, all the factors that helped Brexit. Let’s focus on those pending an official Brexit solution.

  • Simon Banks 21st Aug '16 - 7:47pm

    This cites believable reasons why May might want a snap election. I think she would have to wait for the Labour leadership contest to be resolved for two reasons – to propose an election while Labour was still choosing its leader would seem so mean and cheap, it would hurt her permanently; and if unexpectedly Owen Smith (reasonable-seeming and a credible PM) won, she could have second thoughts.

    A Smith victory would be a game-changer not only because he would be a more dangerous opponent, but because it would be so unexpected, he’d be hero of the hour, except of course among the Corbynites. He could then proceed to be tough with them and look even more credible.

    However, there is one powerful reason why May could decide against a snap election. It’s a reasonable bet Corbyn will win and Labour internal fights will intensify. She must be licking her lips at the thought of going into a general election in 2020 against Corbyn and against a Labour Party in civil war. Heavily defeat Corbyn in 2016 and by 2021 Labour might well have a much more credible leader and have passed the worst point in its struggles.

    Finally, let me stress I’m looking at whether Corbyn is electable not at whether he’s more or less illiberal than, say, Tony Blair; and despite the current law, if a government asks for a general election the main opposition is unlikely not to support it, since otherwise they’d look incredibly weak and fearful.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Aug '16 - 11:40pm

    Well said Sevan Rose , more like that first , common sense on this ,then we can get somewhere on this !!

  • Kirsty Williams resigned as leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats although she was the only one left in the Assembly.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Aug '16 - 11:51am

    Chris Rennard: a motion of confidence or no confidence?
    Martin: please spell his name correctly, as a courtesy, Fox is a Tory minister.
    All the above ignores the interview given to BBC TV by the MP for Sheffield Hallam, Nick Clegg, described by the BBC interviewer as “an expert on the Fixed Term Parliament Act” and apparently filmed in an office in the House of Commons.
    Also ignored is the decision of the Bundestag during the Chancellorship of Helmut Kohl, which had and has a constitutional court supervising its actions, unlike the UK.
    Theresa May has inherited several important decisions, Heathrow for instance. At a guess about an uncertain future she might want to wait for Labour to finish their current leadership election and she might want to hold at least one autumn party conference. As for the intake of new MPs after an election there are usually surprises but the Tory membership has shown itself to be mainly elderly, male and euro-sceptic, with some new blood after the EU referendum, according to the published analysis of their agent in West Kent. Their recent intake of MPs has shown some free thinking and some willingness to rebel. Each Tory local party jealously guards its right to choose the local candidate for the Commons, and may well be independent of Central Office funding, as David Cameron experienced. The legal processes associated with the 2015 general election do not yet seem to be complete. UKIP are also having a leadership election, involving some internal disagreements, including the double-jobbing of Nathan Gill as a member of the Welsh Assembly and MEP.

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