Boris Johnson stated that he wants to have a general election on the 12th of December, and very clearly he is trying to paint these election as a "referendum" (even though a referendum is not based on voting districts, etc.), but he lost that vote today.

Jo Swinson, of the Liberal Democrats, offered him an election exit strategy on the 9th instead. Johnson rejected this proposal.

Why? Why does the 12th matter so much? And why would the Lib Dems work with him on having early elections, rather than (at the very least) insisting on a second referendum before a general election?

  • This cannot be answered conclusively until we see what happens tomorrow in Westminster, but the argument about the dates seems rather immaterial.
    – Fizz
    Oct 28 '19 at 23:51
  • There's a BBC article which tries to explain the divergence, but the arguments seem obscure. LibDems seem to argue that if the date is set to Dec 12 the Brexit deal could be approved by then (but not if the election is on Dec 9). I have no idea what arguments lie behind that time math.
    – Fizz
    Oct 29 '19 at 1:26
  • The different timetables for the election are compared here but I don't see anything about passing the Brexit deal, although Johnson's plan allows Parliament to function until Nov 6 instead of Nov 1.
    – Fizz
    Oct 29 '19 at 1:34
  • The 9th has been proposed by the Scots and a woman. BJ can not accept that. Oct 29 '19 at 13:45
  • 1
    He also won a vote on Queen's speech, which I think almost everyone forgot about bbc.com/news/uk-politics-50171547
    – Fizz
    Oct 31 '19 at 0:47

There are a number of factors here which may be relevant, although as observers we cannot be certain which are actually weighing on private decisions.

In favour of the 12th:

  • The 12th of December is a Thursday, which is the de facto standard election day in the UK.
  • Parliament must be dissolved for a 5-week election campaign. That means that if the election is on the 9th of December, it must be dissolved before next Monday, which is tight.

In favour of the 9th:

  • Some people (including Swinson and Corbyn) have raised concerns about students who are registered to vote in their university towns but may already be back at their parents' for Christmas by the 12th. (There is an implied accusation that Johnson wants to delay because the student vote is unlikely to favour the Conservatives).
  • Election administrators are raising concerns about the availability of halls to serve as polling stations, because the usual venues may already be booked for Christmas parties, etc. An earlier (and Monday) date would alleviate this slightly.

As to the Lib Dem strategy, they seem to have concluded that there's no realistic possibility of getting a second referendum past the current House of Commons. I saw the suggestion raised at least six months ago (so I'm not sure how easy it would be to track down) that Labour have a red line on a general election before a second referendum because senior figures consider that their manifesto in the last general election would be incompatible with voting for a second referendum, and they don't want to open themselves to the charge of breaking their manifesto.

It has also been suggested, probably with some justice, that being the clear anti-Brexit party is the core policy of the Lib Dems at the moment, so that it's to their advantage to have a general election before Brexit is seen as settled.

  • Thanks. It seems that The Guardian has also written about this now: theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/29/…
    – Ink blot
    Oct 29 '19 at 14:07
  • 3
    For what it's worth, Parliament is not suspended before an election, it's dissolved. MPs cease to be MPs, etc. It no longer exists during that period.
    – owjburnham
    Oct 29 '19 at 14:25
  • 4
    @owjburnham, good point. Technically correct is the best kind of correct... Oct 29 '19 at 16:05
  • Re students, they can vote either at home or at university - so that isn't a problem per se. But: students spread out across the country have less impact, vs there are some seats with heavy student presence that are more LibDem/Lab as a result. they are easier to pusuade and get out to vote when they are centralised too also, student activists form a core cadre of election workers for the parties and it is easier to assemble minibuses of students durig term time to go off to key seats. Oct 31 '19 at 18:57
  • "senior figures consider that their manifesto in the last general election would be incompatible with voting for a second referendum" Jeremy Corbyn has now categorically stated that if elected, Labour would hold a second referendum where the options would be to leave with whatever deal they'd managed to negotiate by that point, or to remain in the EU. I presume that the Lib Dems would back this as a route to remaining. Nov 1 '19 at 10:41

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