As Theresa May has appointed a new cabinet the question of the need for another General Election has been raised by many. People who are urging for a new General Election consist of two groups, one group believes that as there has been a change of Prime Minister then it is necessary for Teresa May to seek a mandate personally as Prime Minister; the second group argue that as there has been a change in the circumstances of the country since Brexit therefore an election is needed to decide what course Britain should take.
Constitutionally there is no need for it, numerous Prime Ministers even in recent history have taken over the mantle of PM without a sudden election, these include Gordon Brown (who would later come to regret this) and John Major. As our constitution is uncodified and includes conventions as well as written documents these act as precedents for what should or should not occur. Not only this, but in representative government under our Parliamentary system we elect MP’s to form a government of which the head of the largest party will traditionally become PM. We do not directly elect a Prime Minister despite their powers surpassing those of many Presidents most notably the American President. However even under a presidential system a new election might not be necessary as with previous examples of the resignation of Richard Nixon or the death of JFK the vice president simply took over. Triggering a new election because of a change in Prime Minister may seem like the ‘correct’ thing to do but simply makes little sense with our current system.
The case for a post brexit referendum is also one i cannot get behind, the referendum didn’t say anything about what kind of politics we wanted (the General Election did that) and it gives the Parliament a clear mandate to negotiate an exit agreement at some point in the future. The route the country will take politically was decided in the General Election which gave government a mandate to rule until the end of the term which is set by the Fixed term Parliament act, a vote of no confidence is deployed or the government overturns such an act. After beating down the two arguments for an election you might be under the impression i don’t want such an election to take place but you’d be wrong.
My argument on the need for another election isn’t predicated upon constitutional or democratic arguments however, it is based upon my growing concern at the state of my party, the Labour party. My concern is three-fold, my first concern is the ability of the current opposition to hold the government to account. Labour is currently providing a phantom opposition; with the 81-year-old Paul Flynn who has been pretty much a permanent back bencher now filling two positions on the front bench it’s all looking pretty desperate. Sad to say he isn’t the only one with five of the front bench performing two jobs or more. To say the shadow cabinet has become moribund would be too optimistic about its destination and ability to effectively scrutinize the government. A new election would more than likely give the Labour party a kicking in the polls prompting an emergence of a reformed and functional shadow cabinet.
Secondly, a new election would firmly put to bed the issue of Corbyn’s electability. The Corbynite argument has been predicated upon the by-election results and the growth in party membership. Any opposition is expected to perform well in By-elections especially when those By-elections are held in places where you already hold the seat and are your heartlands. It was often thought by Michael Foot before that infamous election that he couldn’t lose because of the success of mass rallies…. Succeeding in places like Oldham and Barnsley are not signals to future government. Polling consistently has Labour behind which is hardly a promising sign since even Miliband’s doomed attempts to unseat the Conservatives had a considerable lead at this point during his opposition. Not only this but when you consider the council election results were the worst of any opposition since 1985 and Labour fell behind the Conservatives in Scotland for the first time since 1955. It’s safe to say that an early election would decimate Labour and put to bed the Corbyn electoral argument forever.
Finally an early election would draw the toxicity out of the Labour party that is currently present. It is no secret Labour is in a civil war probably not seen at any time during its history, the NEC have been under attack, the Labour right and Corbyn supporters have all had elements where they have been out of control. The abuse has almost reached critical mass with talks of the party splitting being taken seriously for the first time in more than three decades after the ultimately failed SDP breakaway. A General Election would focus the Labour’s party’s mind on something other than a potentially internecine civil war which is already spreading discord, distrust, and dismay amongst not just the PLP but also amongst its broad church membership of which more than half want Corbyn to go before the next election.
There are other reasons why I think a General election would be beneficial for Labour but these are the three really pressing problems. Our Parliamentary system rests upon having a capable opposition party, please can we have it back?
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