MPs have given the green light to a snap election on 12th December, after the government presented a bill to Parliament on Tuesday 29th October. The early election is hoped to resolve the political impasse at Westminster, following the EU’s decision to grant a new extension to Article 50.
The new extension, or ‘flextension’, allows the UK to withdraw from the EU by 31st January 2020 at the latest, with the option of an earlier departure in early December or early January, if MPs manage to approve of a withdrawal agreement.
The last general election to be held in December occurred back in 1923, half a decade after the end of the First World War. General elections are rarely held in winter, owing to the impact of colder weather and shorter days on potential turnout.
Chance to break impasse
Westminster has been trapped in an impasse over Brexit for many months, with Parliament having been prorogued and MPs blocking most of the bills the government presented to them since the summer. However, on this occasion, MPs voted to support going to the country by a margin of 438 votes to 20.
Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, the government usually requires two thirds of MPs to support a snap election, but the government used a bill to bypass this, requiring only a simple majority of MPs present to pass it.
The Conservative Party responded to the news, tweeting: “Tonight, despite Labour’s further attempts at delay, Parliament has moved closer to supporting Boris Johnson’s proposal to have a general election on Dec 12 – to end the Brexit deadlock, so we can move on as a country, and get Britain back on the road to a brighter future.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also welcomed the prospect of a snap poll, despite his party having been sceptical of the idea in recent weeks. He tweeted: “This general election is a once in a generation chance for real change. Labour will transform our country, take on the vested interests holding people back and ensure that no community is left behind.”
Britain Elects, which takes all opinion polls on voting intention and produces an average figure, estimated that the Conservatives had a lead of almost 10 per cent as of Friday 25th October, giving them 35.1 per cent support, compared to Labour, who trailed on 25.4 per cent.
Who will win?
Due to the UK’s electoral system being based on the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) model, in which the total number of votes isn’t necessarily reflected in the share of seats each party wins, a 10 per cent lead in voting intentions could translate into the Conservatives winning a disproportionately larger majority of seats in Parliament.
Electoral Calculus analyses opinion polls and produces regular projections for the likely number of seats parties could expect to win, and its prediction, based on polling data up to Friday 25th October, gave the Conservatives a projected 363 seats, or a majority of 76 seats in total.
Their latest prediction also expects Labour to lose 76 seats, which would be their worst electoral performance since 1935, while the Liberal Democrats are expected to more than double their number of seats, from 12 to 31.
The Brexit Party, despite polling in the low teens, is projected to gain no seats under Electoral Calculus’ latest projections, highlighting the disadvantages of being a small party under the UK’s existing electoral system.