For most Brits, a December election likely sounds like a Nightmare Before Christmas.
It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s wet, and the mammoth task of organizing the festive diary is usually far closer to people’s minds that political machinations and policy proposals.
That may partly explain why Brits haven’t headed for the ballot boxes in December since 1923, when Ramsay MacDonald won enough seats in a hung parliament to form the country’s first ever Labour government.
But given the all-consuming nature of the Brexit process, it’s perhaps fitting that political chaos now appears poised to invade the UK’s homes around the Christmas period.
Will a Christmas election happen? The prospect of a Yuletide vote this year is now a very real one, with Boris Johnson threatening to call for a snap poll if the European Union decides on a lengthy Brexit delay. Key aides in the Prime Minister’s team are reportedly pushing for him to do so.
And the longer Johnson waits to make the move, the closer a poll will inch towards Christmas Day. There must be 25 working days between an election being called and the vote taking place — which means that if Parliament approves the plan next week, the first week in December is the earliest it could take place.
As elections traditionally take place on a Thursday, the current timetable makes December 5 or December 12 the most likely dates.
To secure a vote, he would also need Labour’s support — under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, two-thirds of MPs must back an early poll.
Who would win? The more pressing question is what the outcome of an election would be. Johnson’s party enjoys a healthy lead in opinion polls over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, and if that translated to votes he would sweep to an outright victory and claim a majority in Parliament.
That likely means Johnson could then pass his Brexit deal immediately, without having to worry about political opponents amending its contents.
But the risks are clear. His predecessor Theresa May fell into the same trap in 2017, when her lead over Corbyn was so tempting she decided to contest an election. A woeful campaign and a resurgent Corbyn wrecked her plans, and the vote returned the split Parliament Johnson now finds himself constrained by.
Corbyn, a formidable campaigner whose party has been on an election footing for some time, would be expected to back to vote as long as the EU’s Brexit delay has been confirmed and a no-deal split ruled out.
And despite Johnson’s polling lead, the bookmakers are currently predicting another hung parliament — meaning Brits would find months’ worth of further political uncertainty under their trees on Christmas morning.