The Prime Minister has finally done it and taken steps to put this parliament out of its misery, seek her own mandate and secure a proper working majority.
Over the last few months readers of this blog will know that we’ve long viewed the stated aim of keeping this government running until 2020 as unrealistic and asking for trouble.
Again and again legislation was watered down reforms were being announced and then pulled and anything potentially controversial was being kicked into the long grass. History books will confirm what was the final straw but we suspect it was the number of measures originally to be included in Housing White Paper having to be removed to such an extent that the bill became almost meaningless. Others may point to the embarrassing National Insurance contributions row in the Budget but almost all will see through the Prime Minister’s stated reason of the Lib Dems and Labour threatening to block the BREXIT process. The timing is too opportune for this not to have been thought and planned about for some significant time – indeed, Government secure suppliers such as printers were put on notice a fortnight ago.
The ineptitude of the official opposition will have been a major factor as will the growing resurgence of the Lib Dems as a potential threat, which couldn’t be left to run much longer. In addition, up and down the country thousands of Conservative activists have been busy leafletting and knocking on doors for the 27 county council elections that will take place on May 4th. CCHQ’s monitoring of the activity has been unprecedented with each county division being judged for effectiveness and capability.
The County Council elections are in effect being used as a dry run for the General now due five weeks later. Deficiencies are being identified and will be addressed, more voting intention data will be available from two months of canvassing, messages are being trialled, the telephone banks are operating at increased capacity, county seats also in marginal seats are being given ‘extra attention’.
CCHQ is also flush with cash, the previous Chairman Lord Feldman, had anticipated a ‘hung parliament’ and had raised enough money for two General Elections to be fought closely together. Contrast this with Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP who are all still rebuilding from the 2015 election.
Finally, The Prime Minister will have remembered Gordon Brown’s dithering and procrastination after he became the new occupant of No 10 where he threw away his best chance of winning a General Election. In all reality things will only get more difficult for the government over the next three years and Mrs May will have realised that she would seldom be so well placed to win an election as now.
As to the result the Conservatives should improve upon their current position potentially adding 35 to 40 seats, mainly at the expense of the Labour party. In percentage terms the Liberal Democrats could be the biggest winner, they could well double their current number of seats in Parliament.
If the result gives Mrs May a solid working majority, expect a truly radical agenda on the domestic front. Over the last nine months No 10 will have been increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress on the Social Justice agenda including Housing, so close to the Prime Minister’s heart. If the political gamble proves successful, expect this agenda to be followed up with fervour after June 8th.
This article was written by Frank Browne a former leader of Wokingham Borough Council and a member of our non-executive board.