A December general election could mark the demise of Remainer resistance

This article first appeared yesterday, 29th October 2019, at betting.betfair.com

The speculation is all but over – there will be a general election in December. The exact date will be confirmed this afternoon. A market that has seen various different months and years trade at odds-on throughout this chaotic Brexit process is finally all but settled.

Having failed yesterday, Boris Johnson will try again today to get the one line bill through parliament to secure an election. Unlike the two-thirds of MPs required yesterday, this vote requires merely a majority. The news, just out, that Labour will vote for it seals the deal.

Tories odds-on for a majority

Boris Johnson will be jubilant. The Prime Minister is on the verge of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. A Conservative Majority – matched earlier in this Parliament at 8.0 – has crashed to odds-on at 1.93.

Throughout this dramatic Brexit process, I’ve been trying to understand and explain it as a game of chess. Each party, each faction has a set of interests and objectives that explained their incremental parliamentary moves.

One fairly consistent theme involved the strategic ineptitude of Remainers – in keeping with a longer-term ineptitude of Britain’s liberal-left. It lies behind their loss of the referendum – arriving 30 years late to the argument – and indeed why the last century has been a Conservative one.

That negative analysis, to be fair, has cooled in recent months. The parliamentary moves to block no deal Brexit involved an impressive marshalling of cross-party sentiment. However that work may well be undone now – because it proved impossible to unite all those factions behind delaying the election.

Sequencing to deny Brexit has been broken

An early election is certainly good for the Tories, bad for Labour and potentially very good for the Lib Dems. It at least pauses the chess game, which Remainers were well-positioned to win, and might completely turn over the board. Let me explain.

As it stands, the Withdrawal Agreement has passed its first stage. Now the bill is due to be scrutinised and can be amended. As Anna Soubry said in Parliament yesterday, there is a majority for that confirmatory referendum under the right circumstances. It is all about sequencing. Scrutinise the deal. Amend to include a Customs Union and therefore split the Tories. Then attach the referendum.

It is highly questionable that we ever reach that stage now. It requires the election producing another hung parliament. That is possible – as explained a few weeks ago, opinion and party affiliation is incredibly volatile and regionally based. However, the polls show Johnson achieving his core aim – to squeeze the Brexit Party and unite the Brexiter vote.

Unless Remainers can form an unprecedented tactical coalition, they will be lambs to the slaughter. Labour will lose dozens of marginal seats to the Tories, which were only won by uniting the non-Tory/Remainer vote. There is no indication of a repeat – Labour’s poll share has sunk to its core.

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