Christmas election could turn out to be a real turkey

CANVASSERS could soon be competing with carol singers for the attention of Christmas shoppers in a December general election.

Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 6:00 am
Boris Johnson will present the election as being people v parliament
Boris Johnson will present the election as being people v parliament

The prospect of manifestos mixing with the mistletoe and hustings being decked with holly may not fill many with enthusiasm. There have been plenty of warnings about the problem of Christmas fairs and nativity plays having to be cancelled so halls can be used as polling stations.

But politicians insist the difficulties with a festive season election can all be overcome. Since people are reluctant to answer their doors on dark nights, street-by-street campaigning will instead be focused at weekends or replaced by telephone canvassing.

There could be bonuses - perhaps Santa’s sleigh could be pressed into service taking people to vote on ­polling day.

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Boris Johnson succeeded where Theresa May failed when MPs voted in favour of his Brexit deal last week. But despite his monotonous mantra about “getting Brexit done”, he then put the withdrawal legislation on hold because the Commons refused to accept his plan to rush it through in three days. Parliament has not discussed it since.

But Mr Johnson wanted passing the Bill to be part of the deal for a December 12 election. The alternative path to an early election offered by the Lib Dems and the SNP proposes December 9 instead – allegedly because that would mean parliament must be dissolved this week and there would be no chance of the Brexit deal being passed in time.

Both the Lib Dems and the SNP want an election as soon as possible because they expect to do well and they would lose a key part of their message if Brexit has already been delivered before voters go to the polls. For the SNP, there is also the attraction of having the election before former leader Alex Salmond goes on trial in January.

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The EU’s decision to grant a further “flextension” up until January 31 – but leaving at the end of November or December if MPs approve Brexit by then – means Mr Johnson will miss his October 31 deadline.

But he hopes to escape the blame by presenting it as parliament stopping him from delivering the will of the people.

That people vs parliament theme can be expected to feature heavily in the forthcoming campaign.

Those in favour of an election say it is the only way to resolve the Brexit deadlock – but there is absolutely no guarantee it will do so.

Despite the Tories’ poll lead, if Brexit has not happened they will face a challenge to get a clear majority.

Mr Johnson will be attacked by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party for failing to deliver on his oft-repeated promise that the UK would leave the EU on October 31, do or die, come what may, no ifs, no buts.

The Tories are expected in any case to lose seats in Scotland and some Remain-voting areas in England.

Many fear the election outcome could be another hung parliament. All the effort of a December ­election could see many MPs lose their seats and plenty of new faces but still not hand one party a clear majority, leaving the crucial Brexit issue in a never-ending stalemate.