Would anyone want an election after witnessing this afternoon’s Commons debate on the matter? Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have just produced rambling, slightly nonsensical speeches arguing their corner. The Prime Minister wants an election. The Leader of the Opposition does not. Neither offered much that was convincing to support those stances.
Johnson’s main theme was that ‘this Parliament has run its course’. This would have made more sense had the government not held a Queen’s Speech introducing its new legislative agenda just two weeks ago. He also seemed to think that the best way of persuading Jeremy Corbyn to back the government’s motion calling for a 12 December poll was to goad the Labour leader, telling him that he needed to realise that he was toast.
Corbyn’s retort involved the Labour leader repeatedly telling the Commons that Johnson cannot be trusted. One of his major bones of contention was that the Prime Minister had said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than miss the 31 October deadline. He seemed genuinely annoyed that Johnson was in fact still alive.
Ian Blackford argued in favour of the plan that the SNP and Lib Dems have put forward, for a 9 December election which must take place before Brexit. He was clear that the SNP won’t back anything on the government’s terms, but the main focus of his (always rather overdone) ire was on Labour. He said he couldn’t trust Jeremy Corbyn, and demanded to know whether Labour was going to back his bill or not.
But one line in his speech suggested that this bill won’t have as easy a passage as some had thought yesterday: Blackford insisted that the election should see 16 year olds allowed to vote. This will be popular with Labour MPs, but it will also make it difficult for the legislation to pass and an election to happen.
MPs will debate this motion for around an hour now before voting. The assumption is that the government’s motion will fail, but this is only the start of a push for an election. On the basis of what we’ve heard so far, it’s going to be a dismal week – and probably a dismal election campaign too.