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Third, it might be the case that Labour moderates do not want an early election for the simple reason that they do not want a Corbyn government to be elected. If the current parliament survives until 2022, for its full five-year term, the hope is that something may yet happen to prevent Corbyn leading the party into the next election — whether it be Corbyn falling foul of the Commons Standards Committee for failing to declare international trips to Palestinian and other “progressive” jamborees or simply getting too old to carry on or, rather less likely, the Labour membership coming to its senses.

One of the great achievements of the Brexiteers is how thoroughly they have managed to toxify the idea of a second referendum. Vote Leave and its strategists Dominic Cummings and Douglas Carswell actively considered running the Leave campaign with a two-referendum strategy — one on the principle of leaving and one on the final deal — when they thought that this would be a more likely route to victory. It was only abandoned as a plan in early 2016 because of pressure from donors who hated the idea of having to fight the battle twice and the growing notion that the Leave campaign might actually win.

If the referendum had gone the other way, it would have taken Nigel Farage days, rather than the months it took Remainers, to argue that the result had been a cheat and a second referendum was needed. Indeed, Farage was laying down the groundwork for just such a strategy with the tone of his “concession” speech, blaming Project Fear scaremongering, shortly after the polls closed, when he appeared to think that Remain had won. Of course, what the People’s Vote project — the name is a straight rip-off from the Eurosceptic-backed campaign to pressure Cameron into holding an In/Out Referendum, the People’s Pledge — is now trying to achieve is not truly a referendum on the deal but a way of overturning Brexit, or achieving an “Exit from Brexit” as its Liberal Democrat supporters honestly proclaim.  

It seems unlikely but not impossible that there will be an election this autumn, but if there is it will surely irrevocably smash the party system. Such an election would be precipitated by May failing to get her preferred Brexit deal through the Commons. For this to happen, some Conservative MPs would have to vote against the government in a confidence vote and the Tories would be standing on a pro-deal, whatever that deal may be, manifesto. Those Conservatives who opposed the deal would then have to stand on their own anti-deal manifesto. This may seem an unlikely scenario, but Europe could still finally bring about the split in the Conservative Party that it has been threatening to do since Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges speech 20 years ago.
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