Fourth time lucky: MPs back Boris Johnson's bid for December 12 election

The nation is gearing up for one of the most uncertain General Elections in modern times as voters look set to head to the polls on December 12.

Boris Johnson in the House of Commons. Photo: PA
Boris Johnson in the House of Commons. Photo: PA

A bid by Labour, supported by both the Liberal Democrats and SNP, to bring the date forward to December 9 was defeated on Tuesday night - but a majority of MPs supported the Government’s Bill for an election nevertheless.

Not all of Labour’s MPs were on board with supporting an election, including Huddersfield’s Barry Sheerman who called it “sheer madness” and voted against an election. And a number abstained because of a mix up with whipping instructions.

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But 438 MPs voted for the Bill, with 20 voting against - a majority of 418.

The battle will likely be drawn along Brexit lines, as the Tories look set to target seats in the North in a bid to grasp a majority.

But Labour will hope to try and steer their campaign away from the divorce from the EU and focus on improvements they say they will make to the country.

Despite pushing for the poll, the election is far from a safe bet for Boris Johnson, with the public sick and tired of hearing about Brexit.

Tory backbencher Robert Halfon said Boris Johnson had told MPs it was going to be an incredibly tough election for the Conservatives.

After leaving the 1922 Committee, Mr Halfon told reporters: "He said we're going to take the fight to Corbyn on schools, hospitals and the police.

"We're going to take the fight to Corbyn on domestic issues. Of course he said we have to have an election because we've got to get Brexit done and Labour will mess it up... but it was a King Henry V to Agincourt-type speech - very inspirational."

Asked if the PM addressed the huge risk he was taking, Mr Halfon said: "Yes, he did. He said it's going to be the toughest election.

"He said forget about the polls, forget about everything you read, this is going to be an incredibly tough election. No-one wants to do an election in December, it's going to be mega-tough and it's going to be one of the toughest elections we could ever do."

The House of Lords will now go through the same process as the Commons and the Bill will pass through all stages in that chamber.

Tory MP Steve Baker warned that if the Lords amended the Early Parliamentary General Election Bill they would be “playing with their own futures”.

Mr Baker, the chairman of the pro-Brexit European Research Group and the MP for Wycombe, added: “On a serious note, this Bill of course has to go through the other place (the Lords) and I think if the other place were to put in amendments to this simple and straightforward Bill, which sought to produce a particular outcome, I think we would have to say they have no right whatever to do that.

“That it would be quite unconstitutional, and I think they would be playing with fire, and indeed they would be playing with their own futures in that House were they to seek to amend this Bill to produce a particular outcome.”

It comes as Tory MP Andrew Percy called for a “more civil campaign” during the next General Election.

The Brigg and Goole MP said: “The 2017 election was an appalling campaign for many of us to go through, and the abuse and threats and damage to property, damage to constituents’ property, perpetrated in some cases, by people in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

“So I hope the campaign next time in December is a more civil campaign on all sides, because this is not a matter that one side owns particularly.”

The Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham, Rehman Chishti, agreed with Mr Percy’s sentiments, and stressed that civility and respect is needed before recalling abuse he received during the 2017 campaign.

He said he was told to “f*** off back to country X”, adding: “My country is this great country and Gillingham is my hometown. So do I f*** off back to Gillingham?”

MPs and their political rivals will now begin their rallying calls and Emma Hardy, the MP for Hull West, joked she would “get her sledge out” to canvass during the cold weather. Meanwhile, Leeds East MP Richard Burgon said it was “44 days until we get Jeremy [Corbyn] into Downing Street”.

Mr Johnson told reporters that it is time for the country to “come together to get Brexit done” as he left a meeting of the 1922 Committee of Tory MP, adding: “It’s going to be a tough election, but we will do the best we can.”

Former Cabinet Minister John Whittingdale said the Prime Minister claimed the Tories has “everything to play for”.

He added: “He said it wasn’t because we were ahead in the polls or because of the horror of Corbyn, but because we had no alternative - that Parliament is deadlocked and the only way to solve that is to have a General Election.”

“[He said] we would be taking the deal which he negotiated - and which defied all expectation in that it got all that we wanted - and we will be campaigning to ratify that deal and then get on with tackling the big agenda.”

Earlier in the day, 10 MPs who had the Tory whip removed were re-instated into the party. Mr Johnson ordered the move in September after they took steps to block a no deal Brexit.Alistair Burt welcomed being one of the 10 Tory rebels re-admitted to the parliamentary party.

After leaving the 1922 committee, he told reporters: “Back in the fold. It’s a big family and it’s very nice to have them back and I’m very appreciative.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “This election is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country and take on the vested interests holding people back.

“The choice at this election could not be clearer. A Labour government will be on your side, while Boris Johnson’s Conservatives – who think they’re born to rule – will only look after the privileged few.

“We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change that our country has ever seen. This is our chance to build a country for the many not the few and fit for the next generation.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, added: “This General Election will decide the future of our country for generations. It is our best chance to elect a government to stop Brexit

“The Liberal Democrats are the strongest party of Remain and will be standing on a manifesto to stop Brexit by revoking Article 50.

“This country deserves better than Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, and I am excited to take our positive, pro-European, liberal vision to the country as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Prime Minister.”

Parliament is due to be dissolved at midnight on November 6.

Meanwhile, the threat of postal strikes in the run-up to Christmas - potentially impacting postal voting - was not taken off the table.

Dave Ward, the Communication Workers Union’s General Secretary, tweeted: “Lots of people asking if postal workers would take strike action during a General Election. To be clear - we will do whatever it takes to defend our members.”

CWU members working for Royal Mail backed strikes by 97 per cent, raising the threat of industrial action in the run-up to Christmas.