Against a Snap Election

San Francisco / June 20, 2019

I'm hearing that Boris Johnson may call a snap election (link). That is a bad idea.

Boris and his team have managed a very disciplined campaign to become the Prime Minister. His team has strategically won the support of the Tory leadership. There is no question he will defeat Jeremy Hunt. It has taken discipline to control Boris' public statements and guide him through the selection process. The press does not give Boris' team enough credit. They are too busy criticizing the idiosyncrasies of the selection process. At that level, the best players are very practical.

Brexit is the most significant challenge facing the next Prime Minister. We should view the strategic incompetence of Theresa May as an opportunity to impose structure on an open-ended problem. Calling a snap election would be a good idea if there were very clear signs that the Tories would gain seats in the House of Commons. The results of the Peterborough by-election should give us pause. We have no idea what would happen in a snap election. It would take significant time and effort to manage a campaign during a period of high uncertainty in British politics. Jeremy Corbyn's team would use a snap election to advance their own agenda. Nigel Farage's Brexit Party would make life more complicated. The Tories have lost many grassroot supporters to the Brexit Party. A better strategy is to minimize the uncertainty in domestic British politics. Take the House of Commons as it is.

May's deal did not pass Commons. Boris should use the time from now until 31 October to see if he can negotiate a deal that is different from May. There are divergent views among the senior decision makers in the European Union. Focus on managing that uncertainty. I also predict that some MPs who did not support May's deal might support the same or a very similar deal in another vote because it's less likely that the EU will grant another extension. For good reason, many MPs want to avoid a no-deal.

Boris should try to simplify the next few months of British politics. He should sharply understand the voting preferences of the present MPs. He should approach the EU with clearer information on what can pass the House of Commons. He should try to negotiate a deal that can actually pass Commons. That would be a significant achievement.