Lynton Crosby, the election guru behind David Cameron’s unexpected and stunning 2015 General Election success, developed an electioneering tactic metaphorically described as ‘throwing a dead cat on the table’. Whilst some people would naturally be appalled by such a sight, more importantly all would be excitedly distracted by it. The news cycle would focus, even temporarily, away from other topics, such as the rising popularity of political opponents. Mr Crosby appears to be playing an important part in Mrs May’s 2017 General Election campaign, so we can expect some dead cats on table in the coming weeks. More intriguingly, is the whole election a deployed MOAB, (May’s Opposition Annihilation Bombshell) or (Moggie Obscuring Actual Blunders) or something of both?
These are uncertain times and, the risk of a force majeure event resulting in failure to get a majority is still there. However, there are several major instances of potential ‘bad news’ that could justify the risks of a General Election in order to get buried. Not in any order of importance these are:
- Potential criminal prosecutions of, reportedly, up to 30 Conservative Members of Parliament or election agents for contraventions of election law arising from the 2015 General Election;
- Embarrassing government policy and other failures revealed through statistics or leaks;
- Major concessions (by Mrs May’s to the EU) arising from the BREXIT negotiations;
- Major policy ‘U’ turns – generally or relating to BREXIT.
These are considered below:
(a) Prosecutions, if there are prima facie cases to answer, could well go ahead whatever happens in the forthcoming General Election. However, Mrs May’s government would be in a stronger position to disassociate itself from the events of the 2015 General Election (under Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne) leaving any actual wrongdoers to be ‘hung out to dry’ alone. The adverse publicity footprint, especially during and immediately after the 2017 General Election could be quite small compared to if the news media and political commentariat were not distracted. And there would be no forced, uncomfortable by-elections to correct election cheating.
(b) The longer in power the more opportunities for reality to come far short of expectations and political rhetoric. There is only so much failure that spin and stonewalling can conceal about, for example, the economy, personal earnings, the deficit and national debt, waste, bureaucracy, over-taxation, crime or mass immigration. Hence having a few dead cats in the bag for emergencies would be useful. A General Election against an inept opposition should produce many for future service in preserving Mrs May’s personal reputation and the government’s generally.
(c) We are beginning to get a clearer picture of the European Union’s (EU’s) negotiating demands, and it doesn’t look encouraging, especially in the light of Mrs May’s declared aspirations. Particularly worrying must be: the EU’s demands for money; desire to continue imposing their rules upon us after BREXIT; wish to make us worse off than if we’d stayed (to discourage the others); order of negotiations (the free trade agreement being agreed only after we have left the EU); insistence that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’; and land grab in Gibraltar. These potential ‘spanners in the works’ are likely to be settled by concessions by our side, if any progress is to be made on getting a comprehensive free trade agreement done and dusted on time. A large majority of loyal acolytes in Parliament would be helpful when being pushed becomes being shoved.
(d) Announcing an early General Election is a major ‘U’ turn, so this lady is definitely for turning. This may not be a bad thing when circumstances change. There is scant evidence that the Government actually understands the complexity of BREXIT. So far we have heard about aspirations. But nothing much else to assure us everything is under control. Rather, it looks more like inactivity and panic reign supreme in the BREXIT corridors of negotiating power. If the ‘wake up calls’ about unachievable aspirations are only now arriving on Mrs May’s desk, ‘U’ turns, for example, on the Single Market membership and ‘Transitional’ agreements over extended time must be possible, if not inevitable. The biggest potential ‘U’ turn is that we are actually staying in the EU (even if membership is disguised by calling it something else).
The Official Opposition in Parliament doesn’t appear to require annihilation from the outside, they’re doing an excellent self-extinction job. However, all’s fair in love, war and politics hence the temptation to savage them if possible. There is also a need for Mrs May to build up protection against ‘friendly fire’ and potential regicide from within the Conservative Party. Trouble-makers exist amongst EU-fanatics (a dwindling number) and, possibly, the very hard Brexiteers. A General Election triumph would obviously provide some respite, and the aftermath an opportunity to clear the decks of obvious mischief makers, clowns, incompetents, Cameroons and Europhile fellow-travellers and impose May-ism (if there is such a pragmatic or ideological thing; the 2017 manifesto could help here).
Is Mrs May developing the ultimate Doomsday regime change weapon that could alter the balance of power in negotiating BREXIT? So much about Mrs May’s strategy and real motivation for calling an early General Election appears hush-hush. She has always seemed to be bigger on rhetoric than results, whilst being somewhat calculating and cautious. Yet by accident or design, the 8th of June 2017 could mark the first test firing of the Mayhattan Project. Ruling elite observers will be watching the blast of democracy from the apparent safety of their Brussels bunker and European capitals. Depending upon the size of the blast for BREXIT, they could ‘have kittens’, and grant negotiating concessions. How else to pre-empt similar democratic eruptions amongst their increasingly disillusioned populations? Contagious popular revolution against autocracy has happened before in mainland Europe, particularly in 1848.
‘Whatever happens we have got the Democracy Kitty and EU have not!’