The odds on a UK general election before 2020 must now have shortened. It would seem that William Hague’s advice to Mrs May was prescient. He suggested that she call a general election to provide her with a solid mandate and to strengthen her hand in the Brexit negotiations.
We started with a u-turn yesterday by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, over his budget decision to impose a NIC tax increase on the self-employed. It demonstrated just how fragile the Tory majority in the House of Commmons really is. A small number of disgruntled Tory MPs imposed this reversal. This weakness will not go unnoticed by the Europeans.
While a new manifesto and a solid majority in the House of Commons would allow Mrs May to plan economic policy appropriately and demonstrate a strong mandate for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. Only a generral election result will give her this. The polls show Labour at its weakest in over fifty years, and as a consequence too weak to oppose.
A rational strategist would move for a new election mandate, and so the odds on an election should be shortening. But, don’t rush out and place your bets just yet. There’s plenty of political noise right now and Mrs May has not yet demonstrated an uwaveringly savvy and deft hand. She’s more likely to miss her moment, as Gordon Brown missed his. Nicola Sturgeon is proving a tantalising distraction. With all the wasps buzzing around her head Mrs May must look out. She may finally end up getting stung.