Features

Is another general election on the cards?

Speculation about a snap election could turn into reality, says Matthew Partridge.

897-May-634
Brenda from Bristol, cover your ears

Less than a year after Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to call a snap general election "rebounded spectacularly", there is already talk of another one, says Henry Zeffman in The Times. Tory Brexiteer MPs "are reportedly so worried about the prospect of Brexit deadlock in the Commons that they have warned their constituency parties there may be an autumn poll". May's message would essentially be a repeat of last year's: "Back me to deliver the best Brexit deal".

It's all but inevitable

An election within the next 18 months is looking ever more likely, argues Rob Wilson in The Daily Telegraph. Political uncertainty is starting to "damage the economy, more so than Brexit". Business leaders will be increasingly eager for someone to be given "a decisive mandate to lead the country whatever the direction". Local elections confirmed that many voters fear Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's "nasty brand" of Marxism.

As Brexit negotiations proceed and the problems mount, it will become more difficult as well as more vital to keep Brexit supporters on side. "So to Brenda from Bristol, who famously declared not another one!' when told of the 2017 general election, I am sorry to say: get ready, because another one is heading your way."

That may be a little premature, says Katy Balls in The Spectator. There are plenty of reasons why an election is unlikely, even ignoring practicalities such as the Fixed-term Parliaments Act and the fact that May's hands are already rather full. Brexit day is just ten months away. Why would Brexiteers, many of whom have campaigned to leave the EU for decades, risk Brexit particularly when a general election could lead to the "most left-wing Labour prime minster ever" being in charge of the final stretch of negotiations? Moreover, the Conservatives have "learned the hard way that voters dislike unnecessary elections".

Although it's not impossible that an election will take place, the "vast majority" of Conservatives will be doing "anything they can" to prevent one, "no matter how difficult the Brexit negotiations get". Boris Johnson, a leading cabinet Brexiteer, has warned May against calling one, reports Bloomberg, saying the British public "deserve a break".

Pros and cons of an early election

But while a snap election might not solve the Tory Leavers' central problem "the shortage of parliamentary numbers for their preferred exit" it is still in their interests to have a vote sooner rather than later, says Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times. The economy is growing and Labour "still wants to leave the single market". These favourable circumstances could change.

A downturn could "weaken the animal spirits behind Brexit", and Leavers cannot treat Labour's position as an "immovable fact". Most Tories "dismiss the weekend speculation out of hand", but the fact is, they are "in reasonable shape" after the local elections and surveys show that voters trust them more than others to negotiate Brexit. It may turn out that "we are all Brenda now".

Crackdown on Russian oligarchs

"The life of a Russian oligarch in London isn't what it used to be," says the Financial Times. Roman Abramovich has returned to Moscow following "unexpected delays renewing his UK visa". It's possible he's become "a victim of... political tensions between the UK and Russia". There are plans to carry out more stringent background checks on those who "buy their way into Britain" a parliamentary group wants action against allies of Russian president Vladimir Putin and an end to the "no-questions-asked hospitality" that draws many rich Russians to the UK in the first place.

I can't see it happening, says Anastasia Nesvetailova in The Independent. Britain welcomes capital from far "less savoury" regimes and Brexit already "endangers the main source of liquidity to the City the EU". Why jeopardise this "second pool of funds"? Any regulatory change that targeted Russians would mean overhauling a whole set of corporate and legal norms that "govern the UK's financial system".

It wouldn't be that damaging, argues Juliet Samuel in The Daily Telegraph. Cracking down on Moscow might "trigger a difficult few years" for a small tribe of bankers, lawyers and estate agents who "have chosen to specialise in a highly risky emerging market", but it "presents no existential threat to our financial centre and would incur no mass losses of jobs or tax revenues". London must remain open to Russians engaged in legitimate activities, but the City should prepare forBritain to turn the screws on others. "We can hardly expect other countries to come to our defence if we won't defend ourselves."

Recommended

Plenty more Brexit arguments to be settled yet
Brexit

Plenty more Brexit arguments to be settled yet

Many important negotiations remain to be sealed in our deal with the EU. “No deal is better than a bad deal” is the way to play it, says Matthew Lynn
10 Jan 2021
Brexit deal: what's changed between Britain and the the EU
UK Economy

Brexit deal: what's changed between Britain and the the EU

After years of wrangling and political scraps, Britain is now outside the EU and has secured a free-trade agreement with the bloc. So what’s changed?
9 Jan 2021
When lockdown ends, be prepared for an inflationary surprise
UK Economy

When lockdown ends, be prepared for an inflationary surprise

The government is pouring more money into the economy to tide businesses over the latest lockdown. Once lockdown ends, says John Stepek,we should see …
5 Jan 2021
Will Britain’s 2020 house-price boom continue in 2021?
House prices

Will Britain’s 2020 house-price boom continue in 2021?

House prices in the UK were hardly cheap going into this year. Yet now, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, they are rising fast. Can it continue into 2021…
2 Jan 2021

Most Popular

Of course bitcoin is a bubble – a bubble you can’t ignore
Bitcoin

Of course bitcoin is a bubble – a bubble you can’t ignore

Bitcoin’s wild ride is being called a bubble by many. And it is, says Dominic Frisby. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And it’s a bubble in whi…
13 Jan 2021
A simple way to profit from the next big trend change in the markets
Investment strategy

A simple way to profit from the next big trend change in the markets

Change is coming to the markets as the tech-stock bull market of the 2010s is replaced by a new cycle of rising commodity prices. John Stepek explains…
14 Jan 2021
I wish I knew what a SPAC was, but I’m too embarrassed to ask
Too embarrassed to ask

I wish I knew what a SPAC was, but I’m too embarrassed to ask

A financial instrument called a “special purpose acquisition company”, or SPAC for short, is growing increasingly popular in the US stockmarkets. But …
12 Jan 2021