(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

Phwoarrr… crumbs… aieeee. The United Kingdom, at time of writing, is going to the polls for a general election on December 12. A five-week campaign (after parliament dissolves next week), with the polling day at the eve of winter, when darkness comes at 4pm, it’s damp throughout, and sodding Christmas is on the way.

It’s a festival of miserabilism that only the Brits could pull off. Maybe Morrissey will record a theme song.

The election has come because Labour now has no excuse by which to oppose it. The EU has granted a Brexit extension to January 31, which the government, as compelled by the Benn Act, has accepted. The possibility of a Boris fiddle — agree on an election, later change the date by executive act — has been removed by cementing it in law.

The whole thing countermands the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act — Boris tried to get it through on that yesterday, which would have given him said wiggle room — but that law was always PR flim-flam anyway.

The Tories themselves resisted when amendments enfranchising EU citizen residents and 16-year-olds loomed, but these were defeated. The final 438-20 vote was Tories + some Labour v Tory and Labour dissidents, and independents. One hundred Labour MPs, the Lib Dems and the Scottish National Party (SNP) abstained. 

The Tories go to the polls with a lead of around 35-37%, to Labour’s 22-25%, Lib-Dems on 16-20%, Brexit Party 10-14%, and Greens 5-7%. The SNP may well take a clean sweep of Scotland’s 59 seats, while DUP and Sinn Fein will share out Northern Ireland (and Sinn Fein don’t sit), so it’s only England and Wales in contention.

There, the Tories are quietly panicking that their lead is soft, and that the Brexit Party — now run by Nigel Farage and former members of the Revolutionary Communist Party — won’t stand down. Or can’t really, since Boris’ deal puts a customs border between Northern Ireland and the UK — something Farage has rejected as treachery.

The Tories are also cognisant of a surging Lib Dems. The latter have 50 target seats and about 40 are Tory holds. 

But for Labour, 22% is 22%. Its, erm, evolving message — election, then second referendum if they win — may send Northern voters to Brexit or Boris, while London voters go Lib-Dem or Green (who are surging).

Deals will have to be done, but there’s a headbanging culture of victory or nothing in Labour. Corbyn wanted the election, others around him didn’t, and he thinks he can campaign his way to a big result. He did last time. But last time he was polling the 40% he got.

Jez v Boris will be a tale of two politics, and both are gunning for triumph or disaster, and not much in between. In the early winter. Aieeeeee… crumbs… phwoarrrr!

Peter Fray

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