I'm perplexed as to why so many in Westminster (especially in Labour) think Boris Johnson will call an early election.

#1: The Tories' polling lead is quite soft, as seen in the dip over the NI tax rises. It would be very May '17/Trudeau to go to the polls in such circumstances
#2: Things are about to get dicey for Johnson. A difficult winter for the NHS lies ahead with flu and Covid. Plus energy quandaries. Plus inflation and cost of living.

In the words one of former Tory cabinet ministers, "this is about as good as its gets for Boris"
#3: Johnson has done very little on Levelling Up, in part due to the pandemic. The formation of @luhcgovuk last week is an attempt to resolve.

As the PM told me in #brokenheartlands, he needs as much time as possible to fulfil pledges to 2019 first time Tory voters.
#4: Boundary changes, which benefit the Tories with around +10 seats, won't be finalised until the summer of 2023. Why would the PM go to the polls on less favourable terms, when Conservative party HQ is already working on managing MPs into the new constituencies?
#5: 2022/23 will be the point when public services are under the most strain. The massive backlog on the health services, in the courts and across the whole British state will be obvious. Calling an election at this time would risk a Ted Heath 'who governs Britain?' race
#6: After the cold and wet campaign of December 2019, there is zilch appetite within the Tory party for another winter election. The public wouldn't be happy going to the polls at Christmas time, which points to spring 2024 as the most obviously time.
#7: It is unlikely Boris Johnson will win another 80 seat majority. Without Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, the party should make at least some gains. The PM will want to hold onto the biggest majority for the longest possible time.
#8: After 2017, the Tory party will not race into another election. Oliver Dowden told Conservative staffers last week "you can't fatten a pig on market day" (a favourite phrase of Tory strategist Lynton Crosby). Any election will be carefully planned with a long lead time
#9: Senior Tories are braced for an George Osborne-style mid-term blip in their standing. One strategist says "everyone is underpricing a Starmer bounce when things get tricky". Hence why no one is thinking about an election with that on the horizon.
I assume this is Keir Starmer’s calculation too, hence deciding to wage his internal battles now. Then he can devote ‘22/23 conferences to outward facing issues, when the wider public might take some notice of what the party is doing.

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More from @SebastianEPayne

21 Sep
🗳 Levelling Up shouldn’t just be about rebalancing England’s economy, it’s about the big democratic deficit too.

So Boris Johnson should replace the House of Lords with a chamber of mayors and reps from devolved parliaments.

@FinancialTimes column ft.com/content/269eb4…
@FinancialTimes The departure of @DanJarvisMP from South Yorkshire shows why mayors need and deserve a national platform. Our most compelling politicians are now found outside on Westminster, yet they lack influence in power and policy.

Robert Jenrick pledged more devolution and mayors to fulfill Levelling Up, all eyes are on whether Michael Gove will do the same.

One MP who knows him well thinks so. "Michael is a big believer in localism, even when it’s uncomfortable for Whitehall"

Read 4 tweets
8 Sep
NEW: Ministers and officials are braced for ‘catastrophic’ end to Universal Credit uplift next month.

Government’s internal analysis suggests homelessness and poverty will rise and food bank use will soar. But insiders say no U-turn.

ft.com/content/ea096a… via @financialtimes
One well-placed Whitehall official on ending the £20 a week uplift:

“The internal modelling of ending the UC uplift is catastrophic. Homelessness and poverty are likely to rise, and food banks usage will soar. It could be the real disaster of the autumn”

One minister agrees: “There’s no doubt that this is going to have a serious impact on thousands of people and colleagues are really worried, I think it will definitely eclipse social care as a political problem. It’s not just red wall MPs.”

Read 6 tweets
7 Sep
🦠 Britain’s approach to the pandemic has become see no Covid, hear no Covid, speak no Covid.

Boris Johnson hopes to avoid further measures with vaccine passports but can he win the argument with the Tory party and beyond?

Latest @FinancialTimes column ft.com/content/f82929…
@FinancialTimes Whitehall is focused on how to get through the winter, but there's "almost zero chance" of October lockdown.

If the situation worsens, Johnson would first try everything else: mandatory masks, then social distancing, then limits on indoor gatherings.

Vaccine passports are the govt's most immediate tool, deemed discriminatory by some, common sense by others. They clash with conceived notions most Britons hold about their relationship with the state, but Johnson is still pushing ahead regardless.

Read 5 tweets
5 Sep
Will Boris Johnson reshuffle his Cabinet this week? Opinion among ministers and Conservative party is split tonight.

One senior No10 official says they are not “expecting” a reshuffle in the coming days, which is not a full denial. It might or might not happen 🧐
Some Cabinet ministers think the talk of a rapid reshuffle is an “old trick to keep people in line on this tax stuff” - the impending plans for social care reform.

One senior minister: “Trying to do this before the spending review would be very difficult in practice”
But another member of the government said they think it could happen very soon because Johnson wants a refresh before the Tories meet in Manchester. “If not now it won’t happen before conference….so I think it could be on.”
Read 6 tweets
1 Sep
💥 EXCLUSIVE; The UK has drawn up contingency plans to move Trident from Scotland to US or France in the event of an independence vote. Another option is to seek an independent British territory within indy Scotland.

Scoop with @helenwarrell @MureDickie on.ft.com/3DCdrOK
Several senior Whitehall officials told the FT the UK would face very difficult options on its nuclear subs in the event of Scotland breaking away from the UK.

Option one is to move Trident to HMNB Devonport, which @RUSI_org estimates would cost £3-4bn.

But Devonport is located next to one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. And officials fear that the structure of the continental shelf means the Vanguard submarines wouldn't be able to dive as quickly, making them more susceptible to tracking.

Read 8 tweets
31 Aug
👨‍🦳 Westminster needs our past prime ministers. At a time when grey hairs are desperately lacking in British politics, our former premiers should be encouraged to stay on as MPs - ala Callaghan, Heath and May.

Latest @FinancialTimes column on how and why on.ft.com/2V4AiRC
Theresa May has found life away from frontline politics fulfilling. Her interventions on Afghanistan, foreign aid, the role of the NSA and overriding the Brexit trade deal have all resonated. Partly because she’s the only ex PM still in the Commons.

The honourable reason for quitting the Commons is to avoid undermining one’s successor. After Margaret Thatcher was brutally booted out of office, she was criticised for being a backseat driver. When Cameron left in 2016, his public reasoning was the same

Read 4 tweets

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