Early Parliamentary General Election

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:21 pm on 19th April 2017.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West 1:21 pm, 19th April 2017

I accept entirely the logic laid out by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in her statement yesterday in Downing Street. I reached that conclusion somewhat earlier, but I did not believe it was possible to deliver. Indeed, I found myself discombobulated by a reversal in Government policy for the second time in a few weeks, having told the readers of the Forest Journal in terms that there was no question of there being an early general election, because it was not in the Prime Minister’s gift to deliver it. Because of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, that decision lies with a two-thirds majority of the Members of the House of Commons and, as I told those readers with absolute confidence, turkeys will not vote for Christmas. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having achieved the impossible and secured the fact that today those turkeys will indeed vote for that.

I first reached the opinion that an election was necessary during the passage of the article 50 Bill. Opposition Member after Opposition Member got up to announce their recantation that, notwithstanding having voted to remain, they were now going to abide by the will of their constituents. Yet at every opportunity they cheered to the rafters those few who spoke out to say that they remained with the 48% and believed that, as events unfolded, the 48% would become a majority. They pursued a strategy of desperation: a strategy of “Hang on, something might turn up”, whether that was the long-promised economic shock or whatever. The “hang on” strategy, however, requires an essential ingredient: delay. Delay was the tactic they clearly pursued through their amendments to the Bill and they promised there would be more.

The other place is currently not bound, in respect of the Government’s policy, by the Salisbury convention. Norman Lamb and I were invited to debate in front of a City audience the motion “That the United Kingdom is leaving the EU”. Two highly respected peers—Lord Butler, the former Cabinet Secretary, and Lord Lester, one of our premier human rights lawyers—argued the case that we would not leave the European Union because they were in a position to prevent it and would do so. The policy the Prime Minister announced, of pursuing a general election and securing a mandate in this House and a mandate to bind the other place to the Salisbury convention, is therefore essential.

I am confident that the Prime Minister will achieve that majority, because I am confident that she will be backed by the overwhelming majority of this nation. She will know that last year I voted for every other possible candidate for the leadership of the Tory party. I have to tell her that I have become her greatest fan. As my constituents recognise and tell me continually, she is doing magnificently. May she long continue to do so.