Theresa May has called a general election in order to obtain a substantial Parliamentary (House of Commons) majority to support her policies on Brexit. She should be careful what she wishes for.
According to the opinion polls (always so reliable) the Conservatives could get a majority of 150 (400 MPs compared to 250 ‘others’). That would be comparable (altho slightly less) than Labour’s 418 MPs in 1997. Let’s assume for a moment that such predictions are true.
The assumption in much of the media, and assumably also amongst Tory leaders, is that this would provide them with an unassaiblable majority. But would it?
Research has shown that “the ties that bind” political parties in Parliament have been weakening and if anything the trend is accelerating. Rebellions under New Labour’s substantial majorities were frequent and sometimes large.
It seems to be assumed that having a majority of 75, or 100, or 150 will give Mrs May ‘carte blanch’ to do what she likes.
But remember that the majority of the 331 Tory MPs elected in 2015 were pro-Europeans. An extra 70 or so added in June 2017, and some retirements, will undoubtedly tilt the balance in favour of “Brexiteers”. But there will remain a strong contingent of broadly Europhile Tory MPs worried about where Brexit is taking us.
And then of course there are the Brexit ‘fundamentalists’ – Tory MPs so obsessed with hard Brexit that any sacrifice – even their own Government – is worthwhile for the cause. Remember the Maastricht “bastards” (as Tory PM John Major called them) – they are still around and now more emboldened than ever.
These fissures run deep in the Tory Party and even a strong “mandate” from GE 2017 are unlikely to quell them completely. Indeed a big majority might even encourage rebellions – they are unlikely to cause the government to fall and they might just change policy in the desired direction? Mrs May has shown herself more than willing to bend to pressure – she was after-all a Remainer, now turned apparently ardent Brexiteer.
Mrs May may think that a decisive GE victory in 2017 will solve all her problems within her own Party. I wouldn’t put money on it.
[This is the first of what I hope will be a series of more or less daily ‘twogs’* – too long for tweets, but shorter than a usual blog – comments on single issues in GE2017. *Apologies to Henry Mintzberg who I think invented the term twog?]