Things are moving fast in Westminster this afternoon, with speculation mounting that Boris Johnson might be about to call an election. The Cabinet is meeting this afternoon, and there will be a reception of Tory MPs in Downing Street this evening, too. Those involved are definitely discussing an early general election as one possibility.
The reason this is under consideration is that Number 10 expects MPs to win their bid tomorrow to take control of the order paper, which would mean that Johnson is pitched into eight weeks of being Prime Minister but with no power. He will have lost around a dozen Tory MPs, meaning he has no majority. In these circumstances, he could argue, the only right thing to do is to ask the country what sort of parliament it wants in another general election.
Tory rebels, who are on the brink of being thrown out of their party over the extension legislation this week, say they’d expect the Prime Minister to table the motion for this election as early as Wednesday. The Labour Party has said it will not back an election after 31 October, but would find it impossible to block one that concludes before the Brexit deadline as it has long argued that such a poll is the only way to solve the Brexit stand-off.
I’ve updated the flowchart of possible outcomes from this week below. You can click on it to view the image in its full gory glory:
If we do get into general election territory, then there could be a number of Tory seats where the current MP is no longer a Conservative, but decides to stand under some kind of independent ticket. In some of those seats, the most likely outcome of this is that the sitting MP and the new Tory candidate split the vote, meaning Labour or the Liberal Democrats take the seat instead. So the Conservatives have to be pretty confident that they are going to do very well in Labour seats in order to offset this. If they’ve miscalculated, the Brexit flowchart will look even more like a bramble thicket.