Another bloody election – and what is the real reason behind the decision to call it?
The media have by and large swallowed the Theresa May line that the government will have a stronger hand to play when her ministers sit down with their European counterparts to negotiate Brexit. Britain, she asserts, will be in a far better bargaining position if the Europeans see that the government has a clear mandate.
The financial markets were sympathetic to these arguments, too, especially the pound, which yesterday rose to a six-month high on the news, although shares prices suffered a typical wobble. The markets are said to anticipate political outcomes, but that’s an old adage and old adages these days seem less likely to be stone-cold certainties than brand new paradigms.
I can’t help wondering, all the while, whether there might have been other, hidden reasons behind the decision. I can think of two.
First, Britain is likely to suffer from a severe bout of inflation next year, and perhaps for some years after that, a cheaper pound one of the contributing factors. Another influence would be indications that the EU has stuck to the hard negotiating line that it has been threatening from the start. A weak currency combined with a bad deal would not, in electoral terms, be good for the governing party, of whatever political colour.
Better, then, May might have been thinking out loud on her walks in the Welsh hills, to have an election now, when the economy is growing, and consumer confidence is high, than two or thee years from now when the excrement starts to collide with the air distributor.
All this may bespeak an unjustified cynicism.
The unarguable facts, it has to be said, are that May’s best chance of getting herself elected in her own right is to have a vote now against an already weak and evidently still weakening opposition under a man who would somehow find a way not to lead his party to victory even if Mrs. May and her husband were found to have been the secret owners of a house of ill-repute in Maidenhead. Or indeed if it were to be discovered that she had been engaged in a torrid secret affair with Nigel Farage.
On all the present polling evidence the Tories will romp home with a greatly enlarged majority. The polls have not performed commendably of late years – though not as badly as has been attributed to them – but a Tory lead of twenty points seems unassailable, especially as the UK Independence Party, having lost an empire but not yet found a role, to quote the late Dean Acheson, seems to be in terminal decline.
If there is to be any uncertainty, it may derive from the effects of a low turnout. This is Britain’s fourth national election in as many years, if the European parliamentary elections are included, and the voters are entitled to be suffering a case of political ennui. Besides, the Referendum will be a hard act to follow in terms of commitment and passion. But then again, the missing voters are more likely to come from the Labour side than the Conservative.
So, once more into the breach, dear friends, and let’s hope that we will not be in Brussels closing the wall up with our English dead.