Downing Street has rejected William Hague’s call for a snap general election. The former Conservative leader argues in his Telegraph column today that this would ‘strengthen the government’s hand at home and abroad’, but Number 10 says this isn’t something Theresa May ‘plans to do or wishes to do’.
Theresa May is often compared to Gordon Brown, but one thing she will have learned from that previous Prime Minister was that to talk about an early election is a very bad idea, especially if it then turns out that it isn’t something that you wish to do either. But is she secretly keen on an early election?
Those who are closest to the Prime Minister really don’t think that she is the sort of politician who would change her mind about something she has vowed not to do. They think she has such an antipathy to playing political games that she would steer clear of an early vote, even though it would make governing much easier as it would hand the Tories a much bigger majority.
It also isn’t entirely clear how an early election would strengthen the government’s hand in its Brexit negotiations. Would Theresa May trigger Article 50, sort out the thorny problem of the status of EU citizens in Britain and British citizens abroad, and then bid farewell to European leaders for three months so she can tour target seats in the North and Midlands?
The trade-off, of course, is that the government will have to slim down many of its proposals for domestic reform in order to get them through Parliament if it continues with a slim majority until 2020. At some point, May might change her mind. But this would surprise those who think they know her best.