Downing Street this morning emphatically ended speculation concerning the possibility of an early general election. The announcement came alongside the decision to trigger Article 50 on 29th March, which will formally begin the process for the UK to leave the European Union.
A government spokesperson told Westminster journalists on Monday morning that “There is no change in our position on an early general election. There is not going to be a general election.”
It had been thought that, despite the Fixed Term Parliament rule introduced by the coalition government in 2010, Theresa May might deem an early election both possible and necessary to further secure her position as leader, given the unique circumstances in which she came to power and the relatively narrow majority currently held by the Conservatives in the Commons.
Since the 2015 general election, in which the Conservatives won a narrow majority, they have struggled to pass a number of proposed reforms, including a rebellion in the Lords forcing a governmental about face on tax credit cuts while George Osborne was still Chancellor, and a more recent U-turn by Philip Hammond over the question of raising National Insurance premiums for the self-employed.
Labour, the official opposition, are seen as being intensely vulnerable under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, with the Conservatives holding a double digit lead in almost every poll that comes out.
The recent Copeland by-election, in which the sitting government won an opposition seat mid-parliament for the first time in over thirty years, is seen as symptomatic of the problems Labour are facing under Mr Corbyn’s leadership, and there was a chance that the Conservatives could have taken advantage of their current wave of popularity for a further five years to come.
The announcement this morning seems to have ended that speculation, and the focus will now be very much on the Brexit negotiations themselves, with Ms May feeling her position within the party and the country is strong enough not to warrant any further reinforcement via a snap general election.