LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May is under pressure from senior members of her party to do the one thing that would likely crush opposition party Labour — hold a snap general election.
According to two senior ministers cited by The Times, many members of the Tories are keen for May to hold a general election ahead of the scheduled 2020 date. They believe Labour would be crushed and she would go into Brexit talks with a stronger negotiating position because the opposition party would be seriously weakened.
“She needs to go sooner rather than later. We may never get this sort of chance again and we don’t know what’s coming round the corner,” said one senior MP.
Another source told The Times: “The bottom line is that Labour are in a bad way now and we should look at going to the country.”
Recent opinion polls show the Tory Party with a huge 13 point lead over Labour and this week new polling by Election Data showed that even Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s approval among Labour Party members has declined significantly over the past 12 months. The party has lost 26,000 members since mid-2016, according to leaked data.
Labour lost last month’s by election in Copeland to the Conservatives, the first time the Cumbrian seat has not been Labour in 80 years. This performance has bolstered Tory party confidence. One frontbench Tory MP told Business Insider that Copeland shows the Conservative party can win seats across the whole of the UK, despite Labour and UKIP:
“Some of the people who vote UKIP will never vote for us so some splitting of the anti-Labour vote is inevitable and if people who will never vote Tory are voting UKIP rather than Labour that is still helping us.”
“Copeland shows it is not going to stop us gaining Labour seats in those places where we are clearly seen as the challenger.”
Shadow Brexit Secretary Kier Starmer said last week that Labour had “no prospect” of winning the next general election if its performance in the polls doesn’t improve. A senior source close to Corbyn agreed.
Former Tory leader Lord Hague of Richmond was the first prominent Tory to call for an early general election, arguing it would strengthen May’s hand in Brexit negotiations. He said the European Union could try to exploit the fact that the Conservatives won the 2015 general election by a slim majority and therefore argue that her government’s demands may not be necessarily representative of the country. A strong election victory would head this off.
The bottom line is that Labour are in a bad way now and we should look at going to the country
On Tuesday evening, the House of Lords voted to give parliament a veto on a so-called“extreme Brexit” scenario and voted 366 to 268 on whether there should be a “meaningful vote” on Theresa May’s final Brexit deal.
On top of that, the House of Lords also defeated a proposed amendment calling for Britain’s final Brexit deal to be put to a second national referendum. Peers in the upper chamber defeated the amendment proposed by Liberal Democrat peers by 336 votes to 131.
These actions in the Lords mean Parliament looks like it will have a crucial role in the approval of any final Brexit deal. If May was to call a general election and win by a bigger majority, it would boost her ability to get a deal done.
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