Will there be a General Election this year?

We are often asked by clients what the prospects are of a General Election taking place this year. Politics is becoming increasingly unpredictable these days and anything could happen, but we think it is about 70/30 that there will not be an election.

Why might an election happen?

Theresa May is vulnerable to being toppled either by her own party, if enough MPs call for a no confidence vote, or if a no confidence motion were passed in the House of Commons. In either event, a new Prime Minister could be appointed and a General Election would not be required, but could happen. There would certainly be pressure for an election, although Gordon Brown waited for three years after taking over as PM from Tony Blair, and Theresa May waited a year after taking over from David Cameron. Brexit is the second major driver of the possibility of an election. If Parliament reaches an impasse and the government is not able to get essential legislation through as the clock ticks towards the UKs exit from the EU in March 2019, or if the PM cannot get support for a ‘deal’ with the EU, then she (or her successor) could opt for an election to break the deadlock.

Why is an election unlikely this year?

The clock is ticking fast towards Brexit and a General Election would mean precious time is lost. A General Election itself would take around four weeks and then further time for a government to be formed. This would put on hold the negotiations with the EU and stall the work to put in place the necessary arrangements in the UK for Brexit. The second main reason is that neither of the main parties particularly want an election. The Conservative Party do not want to risk losing power and their MPs in marginal seats certainly don’t want an election after the scare they had last time round, when Labour made unexpected gains. Meanwhile Labour, who will always say they are up for an election, won’t really want to take over Brexit negotiations that we should assume are in turmoil if an election has been called. An election would also expose the tensions in Labour’s current position on Brexit as many party members would want Labour to be stronger in opposing Brexit, such as by promising a second referendum.

The lesson of recent years is to prepare for a spectrum of future scenarios, rather than make binary predictions and back these in your public affairs activity. Engaging with both the Conservatives and Labour, as well as other parties, is essential, regardless of whether an election is called. There is no better time to start that engagement than now and we are ready to help.

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