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5.15pm: A thought occurs, watching the glum Labour benches in the Commons. What reason do Labour MPs have for turning out to vote for a General Election tomorrow? If you’re a Corbyn loyalist – say 20 per cent of them at most – then you’ll follow the Whip and back the motion. But if you’re anyone else, why would you go through with it rather than muck up the whole process for May? You wouldn’t even have to vote against, you could just not turn up – the supermajority required is two thirds of the entire House, ie 434 MPs, so not voting at all still counts. What’s the risk for them in doing so? If Labour blocks it, then they look weak and ridiculous – but Jeremy Corbyn is their leader, they look weak and ridiculous already. If you face losing your seat, or keeping your seat as your party is badly beaten, then you might think it is at minimum worth disrupting May’s plans, and forcing her to take Route B, which requires Conservative MPs to vote no confidence in the Government. No doubt this will be discussed at tonight’s PLP meeting – worth watching the result tomorrow.
3.50pm: Readers will be variously disappointed or delighted to learn that there won’t be any election debates this time round. Channel 4’s Gary Gibbon reports that CCHQ and Downing Street are categorically ruling out the idea. Not everyone agrees – in the House of Commons just now, Nigel Evans just urged Theresa May to “go head-to-head in as many TV debates with the Leader of the Opposition as possible”, to general amusement on the Government benches, though the Leader of the House was noncommittal in his reply.
Fans of political deathmatches need not be disappointed, though – the Parliamentary Labour Party has called an emergency meeting this evening, at which either Corbyn or one of his Shadow Cabinet is likely to come in for a pummelling.
2.45pm: Interesting times in the distant land of Remainia. The Lib Dems are whooping about an election, offering them as it does a chance to intensify their efforts to become a pro-EU UKIP, capitalising on the false hopes and grievances of those who still want to ignore the referendum outcome. In those areas where it’s a red/yellow fight, the Labour Party seems worried – Bermondsey Labour is organising a rally and campaigning session this evening to kick off their efforts to hold the seat.
Meanwhile, “Open Britain”, the rebranded Remain campaign, have pledged to campaign for any candidate who opposes May’s Brexit plans – an offer any Tory MP would be courageous to take up, no matter what their views. Not everyone is up for the fight, however. AC Grayling, the philosopher who has been increasingly erratic since the referendum, is trying to persuade Labour MPs to vote against holding an election at all, despite his previous assertions that a vast majority secretly support staying in the EU.
For one senior Remain campaigner, this is apparently the end of the road. The Telegraph‘s Kate McCann reports that Alan Johnson, who ran Labour In, will not be seeking re-election. That’s two Labour MPs who aren’t up for knocking on doors to argue for Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister. How many others will follow?
1.45pm: Minds now turn to the mechanics of how the Conservative General Election campaign will work:
1pm: There are of course various other elections taking place between now and June. There’s the Manchester Gorton by-election, several mayoral elections and local elections in many parts of the country. One added side benefit of having a General Election coming up is that it ensures that Jeremy Corbyn will be squarely in voters’ minds when they go to polling stations for these other contests. It’s been very visible since he was first elected Labour leader that the Conservatives are extremely keen to tar his Party’s wider reputation with his hugely damaging reputation – the timing of the national campaign helps that to happen at a local level, too.
One oddity also arises – apparently the plan is for the Gorton by-election to go ahead, which would mean the seat elects an MP to a Parliament which has just been dissolved, and then presumably has to vote again a few weeks later. I imagine voters there won’t be very happy at the prospect of having to go through it all twice.
12.15pm: If you missed the Prime Minister’s statement, our video of it is now online here. Some other knock-on effects of the election decision:
11.45am: It looks like the election will go ahead unopposed in the House of Commons. Jeremy Corbyn has issued a statement saying “I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first.” This is why May felt confident in issuing the challenge – there was next to no chance that her opponents would try to publicly bottle an election, despite the state of the polls. Meanwhile, there’s a big question over how many Labour MPs will stick around to fight for their seats. Tom Blenkinsop has just said that he won’t seek re-election – his Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland seat was the site of the Conservatives’ first gain on the council in 20 years last week. Others might yet follow him.
11.20am: Welcome to our live blog. Theresa May has just delivered a statement in Downing Street, announcing that she will bring a motion to the House of Commons tomorrow, seeking to hold a General Election on Thursday 8th June. A few first thoughts: