How likely is a general election?

With all the turmoil in Westminster and senior Conservatives, such as Charles Walker, predicting a general election, we ask Politics.co.uk editor Ian Dunt how likely it is? Is it time to start planning those manifesto asks?

Westminster is in turmoil (This image is from our animation for UK in a Changing Europe)

Westminster is in turmoil (This image is from our animation for UK in a Changing Europe)

 The short answer is not very - but that doesn't stop people talking about it.

Westminster has very limited experiences of political chaos. Most instances are about crumbling authority, industrial unrest or foreign policy disasters. In some of those cases, a general election sorts things out.

What it doesn't have experience of is direct democracy. The referendum result cut across party loyalties and sent a shockwave of fear and uncertainty through Westminster.

They're still not over it today. In fact, they seem to have been driven permanently mad by it. Most MPs show no leadership capacity, whether it's in their constituency or according to their votes in parliament.

So we've ended up in a situation where Westminster's default solution to things - a general election - simply will not help with the problems it faces. Elections are like switching your laptop off and on again. Once that trick doesn't work, you're stumped.

And it really won't work. Both party leaders are unloved and command little confidence in them. Voter disenchantment with Labour and Tories is extremely high.  We could easily get results resembling the current hung parliament.

And even if we didn't, exactly what Brexit proposition would be put in the manifesto? If Theresa May insists on her deal followed by hard Brexit, the first part will be ignored by the right of her party and the second part by the left. Even if she won a majority on those terms it would not guarantee that MPs would vote any differently on Brexit than they do now.

Is it time to start thinking about election manifestos, and manifesto videos (of course)?

Is it time to start thinking about election manifestos, and manifesto videos (of course)?

The bleak reality is that an election provides no answer to the questions currently facing the country.

A referendum is a much better answer, because it responds to the direct democratic demand provided last time. It is a conversation of equals. But at the moment there still doesn't seem to be the support required for it in Westminster. Or for a rethink of how to approach Brexit. Or anything else for that matter.

And that's really the central problem of the debate. It's not the numerical allocation of MPs that we need to change. It's the quality.

Politicians who were prepared to make tough and unpopular choices rather than freeze in fear at the sight of them are the only way to fix things. But there are very few of them around and no sign of more on the way.

The opinions in this article are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.

Ian Dunt
By Ian Dunt