MPs poised to back May’s snap election in the Commons

19 Apr

MPs will today overwhelmingly back a snap General Election on June 8 in a historic House of Commons vote.

Theresa May needs a two-thirds majority in Parliament to trigger the poll – but Labour MPs are expected to back the motion.

The vote is expected to take place following Prime Minister’s Questions at midday, and will be preceded by a 90-minute debate.

Mrs May could seek to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in her new manifesto

Mrs May could seek to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in her new manifesto

Mrs May could seek to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in her new manifesto

Theresa May needs a two-thirds majority in Parliament to trigger the poll – but Labour MPs are expected to back the motion

Theresa May needs a two-thirds majority in Parliament to trigger the poll – but Labour MPs are expected to back the motion

Theresa May needs a two-thirds majority in Parliament to trigger the poll – but Labour MPs are expected to back the motion

Until recently, prime ministers could decide when to call an election – as long as one took place at least every five years – using so-called prerogative powers dating back hundreds of years. Governments also fell if they lost a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons.

But the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 fixed the date of the 2015 general election, and said subsequent polls would take place every five years. The next election was due on May 7, 2020.

The law was passed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg to try to ensure the coalition government’s survival even if there was a political crisis. Critics described it as an act of constitutional vandalism.

It dictates that the Commons must pass by a two-thirds majority a motion stating that ‘there shall be an early parliamentary general election’. 

It was seen as a possible obstacle to a snap election, but Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has long said he would support a poll. Yesterday he confirmed this, saying his MPs would back Mrs May’s motion.

Despite dire opinion poll ratings, Mr Corbyn said he ‘welcomed’ the Prime Minister’s decision

Despite dire opinion poll ratings, Mr Corbyn said he ‘welcomed’ the Prime Minister’s decision

Despite dire opinion poll ratings, Mr Corbyn said he ‘welcomed’ the Prime Minister’s decision

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, now an SNP MP, accused Mrs May of ‘blatant opportunism’

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, now an SNP MP, accused Mrs May of ‘blatant opportunism’

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, now an SNP MP, accused Mrs May of ‘blatant opportunism’

ALL THE TIMES SHE SAID ‘NO’ TO A SNAP ELECTION 

All the times Theresa May said there shouldn’t be a snap election, before her hand was forced by die-hard Remainers in Parliament.

June 30, 2016 Before she became PM, Mrs May was opposed to a snap election. Launching her bid for the Tory leadership, she said: ‘There should be no general election until 2020.’

July 12, 2016 Addressing party staff she pledged her determination to ‘build the support we need to go to the country in four years’ time, and not just win, but win big’.

August 30, 2016 Ruling out a second referendum, her spokesman said: ‘There is no need for a general election either.’

September 4, 2016 She told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show she would be ‘continuing the manifesto on which the Government was elected in 2015, so I don’t think there’s a need for an election’. She said there was a need ‘to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020’.

October 2, 2016 In an interview with The Sunday Times she said it was ‘right that the next general election is in 2020’. She added: ‘This isn’t about political games, it’s about what is right for the country. I think an early general election would introduce a note of instability for people.’

October 4, 2016 In another appearance on Andrew Marr the PM was asked again whether the Brexit debate was ‘the trigger for another general election’. Mrs May replied: ‘It’s not just about leaving the EU, it’s about that essential question of the trust that people can have in their politicians. The people have spoken, we will deliver on that.’

November 4, 2016 Her spokesman said: ‘There shouldn’t be a general election before 2020. This remains the PM’s view.’

March 7, 2017 After former Tory leader William Hague called for an election, Downing Street sources said it was not something the PM ‘plans to do or wishes to do’.

Despite dire opinion poll ratings, Mr Corbyn said he ‘welcomed’ the Prime Minister’s decision to ‘give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first’.

‘We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain,’ he added.

The Lib Dems will also support the election, and the SNP said they would not ‘stand in the way’ of the poll.

Only one Labour MP, Chris Matheson, has said publicly he will vote against the election. His majority in Chester is 93, making it his party’s most marginal seat.

A handful of others could also try to block the vote. Asked if he would back the motion, Labour MP Mike Gapes wrote on Twitter: ‘Do turkeys vote for Christmas?’

If the Commons does not support the election with sufficient numbers, the Government could theoretically collapse itself by passing a vote of no confidence.

Mr Corbyn would then have two weeks to try to form a government, and if he failed, the election would go ahead. Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, now an SNP MP, accused Mrs May of ‘blatant opportunism’.

‘After everything she said about governing the country, she has taken one look at the opinion polls and dashed to an election,’ he said. Mrs May could seek to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in her new manifesto.

If the vote goes through, Parliament will sit until May 3. Local elections are already being held the next day on May 4, and the General Election campaign is likely to begin on Monday, May 8.

Mrs May  has ended the favouritism and nepotism of the Blair and Cameron period of British politics

Mrs May  has ended the favouritism and nepotism of the Blair and Cameron period of British politics

Mrs May has ended the favouritism and nepotism of the Blair and Cameron period of British politics

Mrs May has shown that she is a different kind of leader to her predecessor David Cameron

Mrs May has shown that she is a different kind of leader to her predecessor David Cameron

Mrs May has shown that she is a different kind of leader to her predecessor David Cameron

GRAMMARS? AID? WHAT COULD BE IN MANIFESTO… 

Lift ban on new grammar schools

Theresa May’s flagship education policy will be put before voters for the first time. Labour and Lib Dem peers had threatened to stop the Prime Minister lifting the 19-year ban on new grammar schools, imposed by Tony Blair in 1998, as it was not in the Tory 2015 manifesto. But by getting a mandate for the change at an election, the Lords will be expected to follow convention and allow a new generation of selective schools. Likelihood of being in manifesto 5/5

Cap on energy bills

Ministers had been preparing to announce a cap on rip-off energy bills within weeks. Now they will be able to unveil a scheme to protect families as a popular vote winner. After EDF hiked tariffs for the second time in only a few months last week, a spokesman for Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: ‘We will shortly set out proposals to help energy consumers.’ 4/5

Scrap 0.7 per cent aid target

Tory backbenchers have been calling on the PM to scrap David Cameron’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid. Ministers had pledged to review the target before the 2020 election and could now offer a fresh promise of an appraisal. But a Government spokesman at the weekend firmly dismissed claims it could be scrapped, saying: ‘We take our international responsibilities seriously and remain fully committed to them.’ 2/5

Bring net migration below 100,000

The goal of curbing annual net migration to the tens of thousands appeared in both the 2010 and 2015 Tory manifestos, but it has been repeatedly missed. Mrs May has signalled that free movement of EU citizens could continue during a transitional phase after the UK leaves the EU in spring 2019, but it would be problematic for her to admit defeat in the long-term drive to cut numbers. 4/5

Rise in VAT, NI contributions or Income Tax

Chancellor Philip Hammond was forced to abandon his Budget proposal to increase National Insurance on the self-employed last month after he was accused of breaking a 2015 pledge. The new manifesto will likely exclude a promise to freeze tax rates so the Chancellor is uninhibited at the next budget in the autumn. 1/5

Hike retirement ages

Next month ministers were due to respond to the Cridland review, which suggested the pension age should rise from 67 to 68 between 2037 and 2039. The Mail revealed last week that the Government was considering accelerating the rise even further so people in their 50s would also face their state pension age being pushed back a year. But any decision is now likely to be kicked into the long grass as a pledge to increase the state pension age would be risky. 1/5

British bill of rights

Plans to axe the Human Rights Act and introduce a British bill of rights have been repeatedly shelved. Mrs May has made clear her desire to quit the European Court of Human Rights. But after the Brexit vote, ministers have said any change would have to wait until after we leave the EU as the Government could only do ‘one constitutional reform at a time’. 2/5

Charges against Remainers who tried to thwart her every move 

Theresa May yesterday said she was ‘reluctantly’ calling an election to ‘guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead’.

Her hand was forced by opposition parties and Remainer peers, who threatened to try to block Brexit or exploit the Government’s narrow majority to undermine negotiations with the EU.

Here, Executive Political Editor JACK DOYLE sets out the charge sheet against the wreckers:

LABOUR

Before Mrs May triggered Article 50 last month, Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer raised the prospect that the party could abstain on the final deal.

Then on March 29, in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil, Jeremy Corbyn went further. He declared for the first time that Labour MPs would block any agreement between the UK and EU unless it delivered unfettered access to the single market.

As the party leader must have known at the time, this is an impossible outcome – and something the EU has already ruled out. He was accused of setting implausible tests in order to find an excuse to block Brexit.

The significant hardening of the Labour position made it much more likely that the House of Commons would vote the deal down – and gave Remainer Tory MPs a powerful stick with which to beat the Government.

Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer raised the prospect that the party could abstain on the final deal

Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer raised the prospect that the party could abstain on the final deal

Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer raised the prospect that the party could abstain on the final deal

LIB DEMS

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has proudly dubbed himself the ‘Remoaner-in-chief’.

He has spent the last nine months attempting to secure the support of ardent Remainers by demanding a second referendum on Brexit.

Despite having only nine MPs, the Lib Dems could – with the help of their 98 life peers – have formed a significant road block to Britain leaving the EU. In particular, they could attempt to unpick or block the legislation needed for Brexit to happen.

Additionally, as Mrs May pointed out yesterday, they are also determined to obstruct in both the Commons and the Lords every single element of the Government’s domestic agenda.

Recently the party’s chief whip, Tom Brake, threatened to ‘grind the Government’s agenda to a standstill’ unless the Lib Dems get their way over Brexit.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has proudly dubbed himself the ‘Remoaner-in-chief’

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has proudly dubbed himself the ‘Remoaner-in-chief’

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has proudly dubbed himself the ‘Remoaner-in-chief’

LORDS

The upper chamber is stuffed full of Remainer peers, many of whom would be delighted to block Brexit or force the Government’s hand during the talks.

Leading blockers include Labour’s Lord Mandelson – who sparked outrage last week by telling the EU to ‘forget Great Britain and take care of your own interests’ – and Tories such as Lord Heseltine, who recently claimed Brexit was a betrayal of the troops who won the Second World War. Such peers could be expected to take any and every opportunity to amend the legislation needed for Brexit, such as the Great Repeal Bill.

Ministers feared Remainer peers would try to amend the Immigration Bill to retain free movement for EU migrants after Brexit. They also thought the Government’s new customs laws could face attempts to keep Britain in the single market.

Mrs May hit out at ‘unelected members of the House of Lords [who] have vowed to fight us every step of the way’.

Leading blockers include Labour’s Lord Mandelson – who sparked outrage last week by telling the EU to ‘forget Great Britain and take care of your own interests’

Leading blockers include Labour’s Lord Mandelson – who sparked outrage last week by telling the EU to ‘forget Great Britain and take care of your own interests’

Leading blockers include Labour’s Lord Mandelson – who sparked outrage last week by telling the EU to ‘forget Great Britain and take care of your own interests’

SNP

The Scottish National Party’s MPs all voted against the Article 50 legislation needed to trigger Brexit, and could be counted on to do anything in their power to try to block the process.

Party leader Nicola Sturgeon demanded a separate deal for Scotland to keep it inside the single market.

As a mark of their dedication to Brussels, the SNP’s Europhile MPs even sang EU anthem Ode to Joy when the Article 50 Bill was going through Parliament.

The party will vote against the Great Repeal Bill – which gets rid of the 1972 European Communities Act and translates vast swathes of EU law into domestic legislation. With help from Labour, Tory Remainers, and the Lib Dems, they could have eventually stopped the Commons approving the final Brexit deal.

The SNP is also trying to use Brexit to demand a second Scottish independence referendum.

Party leader Nicola Sturgeon demanded a separate deal for Scotland to keep it inside the single market

Party leader Nicola Sturgeon demanded a separate deal for Scotland to keep it inside the single market

Party leader Nicola Sturgeon demanded a separate deal for Scotland to keep it inside the single market

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

What happens today?

MPs will vote on a motion calling for a general election on Thursday, June 8. Two thirds – or 434 members – must vote in favour of the motion for it to pass. Jeremy Corbyn has said his 229 MPs will back it, making it a formality.

Why can’t the PM just call an election?

Until the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act became law in 2011, a prime minister could call an election at any point under prerogative powers. Elections would also be held where a government lost a confidence motion. In a concession to the Lib Dems, and in an attempt to ensure the coalition remained in place, the Act removed that power and set in place five-year parliaments.

What if the Government loses today’s vote?

This is very unlikely to happen but the Government would probably respond by voting itself down with a confidence motion. This would give Jeremy Corbyn just two weeks to form a Labour administration. With only 229 MPs in a Commons chamber of 650 he would not be able to command a majority, so the general election would then go ahead as planned in June.

What about bills going through Parliament?

Parliament remains sitting until one minute past midnight on Wednesday, May 3. In the interim ‘wash up’ period, legislation which hasn’t passed the Commons and the Lords will either be abandoned or pushed through. The Finance Bill, which puts the latest budget into law, will be an outright priority.

When will the formal campaign start?

The local elections in England, Wales and Scotland, plus regional mayoral votes take place on Thursday, May 4. The general election campaign is likely to begin on the following Monday, May 8. That would give five weeks of campaigning.

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