Patrick Mercer: No thanks to Jeremy Corbyn, but I sense a general election being called to break Brexit deadlock

Theresa May on election night in 2017. Is another election in the offing? Patrick Mercer thinks so.
Theresa May on election night in 2017. Is another election in the offing? Patrick Mercer thinks so.
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FED up with trudging to the polling station, putting an ‘X’ in the box and knowing that nothing will change – and as expressed by ‘Brenda of Bristol’ when the last election was called?

Well, unless I’m very much mistaken, we’re all going to get a chance to go through that same exercise again in the very near future.

But, if you think that an election will be forced by Jeremy Corbyn’s clever tactics, I think you’re wrong.

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Let’s look at the facts. After Theresa May’s Chequers deal was defeated last week, Mr Corbyn brought about a vote of no confidence which succeeded in doing nothing but uniting the sundered Tory Party and bringing the DUP back to its paymaster’s side.

And what would Jezzer offer his voters? Remember, he’s an EU-sceptic who leads a party two-thirds of whose constituencies voted to leave – not his MPs, mark you, but more than 60 per cent of his voters.

Also, over 150,000 paid-up party members have not renewed their subscriptions since Brexit began. If the Leader of the Opposition is going to turn his coat and stand on a Remain platform, he’s going to have to convince the tens of thousands 
of Labour voters who opted to leave.

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And if he were to win, he’d be stuck with exactly the same quagmire that Mrs May faces right now. The whole, sorry bundle would be placed straight in his lap.

And you have to ask, is the man who has been happy to hobnob with the nation’s terrorist enemies – and yet who doesn’t have the sense to sit down with the Prime Minister – really up to it?

Mrs May might have been slow off the mark in talking to the Leader of the Opposition after her Commons defeat, but she’s been canny enough to meet the trade union leaders whilst Jeremy was too blinded by party politics to realise the depth of the crisis and that he needs to look like a statesman.

And where’s the ‘national interest’ that he keeps intoning in all this? If Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn have got the sense to put ideology aside and talk to the Tories, can’t he?

No, Jeremy Corbyn no more wants to lead the country than stick acid in his eyes. He was in opposition even when his own party was in power: that’s what he does for a living – he opposes everything and proposes nothing. The people smell this and that’s why they will never return Labour to power while Mr Corbyn runs it.

So, if Labour is too divided to act decisively, how will this general election come about? Well, Mrs May’s plodding tactics have been simple. Remember, she and her Chancellor are Remainers and the overall scheme has been to implement the letter of the 2016 vote but not the spirit.

So, her current deal – the
 ‘only deal’ according to her – changes very little in reality but means that the hated starry flag can be pulled down and our passports can revert to royal blue. But she’s been outmanoeuvred.

Dominic Grieve (and perhaps the Speaker) have boxed the Prime Minister in and now it looks as though a series of cunning, cross-party amendments are going to nail that box shut. Article 50 might be rescinded and there could be another referendum: Downing Street’s losing control.

My sources tell me that the Prime Minister has privately come to terms with the fact that Brexit will be delayed – but she can no more trigger that than she can embrace a ‘People’s Vote’.

To all intents and purposes a general election does both: it re-establishes No 10’s control and neatly gets Theresa May off the hook – at least for the time being. And the best indicator of the lot, of course, is that she has emphatically ruled out a snap election.

But, if that happens, who 
leads the Tories into this race? Bear in mind that after she won the Tory vote of no confidence 
in her leadership, Mrs May told her MPs that it’s not her intention “to go into the election in 2022”.

When pressed, she would not make the same commitment about any earlier contest. And, by winning that vote she ensured that there could be no more attempts to oust her for another 12 months and, de facto, she would head up any elections in the meantime.

But would she win? The polls look dodgy, there are 20 seats where the Conservatives have a margin of under 2.5 per cent and nine Tory MPs won with a majority smaller than one per cent. Labour only need 30 more seats to win.

Will she risk it? With Jeremy Corbyn as her trump card and no one wanting to inherit the mess she’s made, I think she will. So, get your voting boots out and put them on stand-by.

Patrick Mercer is the former Conservative MP for Newark. He previously had a distinguished career 
in the Army.