No, May Shouldn't Call a Snap Election
Lord Hague wrote today in the Telegraph that May should call a general election to strengthen the government’s majority at the expense of the Labour Party in order to force Brexit through the Commons. This is a worrying prospect.
Many have said that Theresa May lacks a personal mandate and should have called a general election long ago to confirm her legitimacy as Prime Minister, however ,this isn’t a valid argument. In the UK, people vote for local Members of Parliament (MP) and the party with the greatest number of MPs becomes the leading party.
From that, the leader of the largest party becomes the Prime Minister. Technically, then, the Prime Minister can change infinitely many times within the five-year term. This, of course, doesn’t happen, but Theresa May does have the same degree of legitimacy as David Cameron, who she succeeded following the vote to leave the EU last year. This isn’t why she shouldn’t call an election, however.
Following Corbyn’s three-line whip on MPs to support the triggering of Article 50, it was revealed that the Labour Party had lost thousands of members, and of those that remain 36% believe that Corbyn should resign immediately. For the Conservative party now is the perfect opportunity to get ahead through an election. The democratic case against this is clear, however; a weaker and non-existent opposition means an unaccountable government.
Nobody - or at least very few - are being petty enough to call for a blocking of Brexit by the House of Commons. I would argue that a general election would, therefore, be unnecessary and damaging. A further loss of accountability is something British democracy can’t afford. We saw not too long ago that it was the Lords that had to fight for EU citizens’ rights but there is a point where they can’t get more involved. A strong opposition allows for the government’s policies on Brexit to be scrutinised properly and therefore improved.
Whilst the Labour leadership is beyond parody right now, there are several MPs who are extremely good at what they do. They are the ones that will see to it that the government’s initiation of Brexit is a competent one. A general election would jeopardise them.
Not only would a general election threaten accountability and hence the way the government goes about Brexit, but it could also cause political unease at a time where what’s really needed - for both the markets and the people - is a degree of certainty and stability. One of the reasons the economy has arguably been doing so well following Brexit is the certainty that followed; companies and investors now know what will happen. This could be lost in the midst of another general election which could make the Brexit process even more damaging in the long run.
A general election now is wrong and shortsighted. Brexit and the triggering of Article 50 is going to happen, but the harder the opposition makes it, the higher the quality of the eventual bill will be. That’s the whole point of an opposition.