By James Hutton
The odd formality of the House of Commons voting to dissolve itself passed today, with 522 votes for and 13 against. It was an unexpected call from the Prime Minister, given her previous opposition to it—but also the right one.
Britain negotiating her departure from the European Union will be difficult. Some aspects of the negotiations may be hard to accept. Compromises will have to be made by the British government to ensure the ‘new, deep and special partnership’ Theresa May wishes to forge with the EU.
Approaching this, May has to be realistic. And she is being so—even in the words of President of the European Council Donald Tusk, who said as such responding to her initial negotiating position set out in the Lancaster House speech.
May’s approach will ensure that Britain gets the best possible deal. But to stay on this approach, May needs to be free from the frustrations of this parliament.
The Labour Party—Her Majesty’s Opposition—is in disarray and can’t effectively hold the government to account. The Scottish National Party is more interested in taking advantage of the vote to leave the EU to pursue independence for Scotland. Many Liberal Democrats want to stop the process altogether.
Even within her own party, with a working majority of 17, dissent from either wing could have the government held to ransom.
Parliament needs to be in a place where they scrutinise—not frustrate—the process of leaving the EU.
Labour, it is predicted, will lose many of their seats to the Conservatives. But without the credible threat of UKIP, the likelihood of many remain-leaning Conservative seats switching to the Liberal Democrats and some not wanting to vote for the ruling party which has sent them to the polling station again, the partywill still play their significant role in Parliament.
And although Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘core group’ are on average safer seats than the rest of the parliamentary party, it is very likely that the parliamentary party is still going to be hostile to Corbyn. In turn, there may be another party election: where Corbyn does not stand, or where the party membership turn against him. If so, the country will then have what the late Queen Mother purportedly thought was the best parliament: Tory government witha strong Labour opposition.
And if the Conservatives manage to gain some leeway in Scotland, the SNP’s enthusiasm for another independence referendum may fade if there is a credible chance that they could lose the vote again so soon after the last one.
And finally, the Conservatives should win a larger majority, which will lend the Prime Minister flexibility in negotiating with the EU, and provide her with a much-needed mandate for her vision of Britain. Even if, constitutionally, this is not needed, as politics becomes more ‘presidential’, it is for the best that the people of the United Kingdom can choose to back her, lest she be told for the next three years that she is ‘unelected’.
James Hutton is Commercial Executive for Parliament Street