Sketch: Another nail biter for beleaguered Theresa May as the general election vote passes by the narrowest of 509 vote margins

Not since her Article 50 Bill passed by 498 votes to 114 has an early election been more urgent

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Indy Politics

Another gruelling day in the trenches for our beleaguered Prime Minister Theresa May. What sweet relief it will be when the general election comes and this brutal war of attrition comes to an end. 

Not since her Article 50 Bill was passed by 498 votes to 114 has the Prime Minister had to face down such wanton insurrection, and she knows as well as anyone else that it just can’t go on like this.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, the Greens, and all the other people from other parties that won’t just do as they’re told are making the country ungovernable. And on Wednesday afternoon they did it again.

It was the first time the House of Commons had ever been asked to vote on whether to give itself a general election. Until relatively recently, the power to call a general election belonged exclusively to the Prime Minister and no openly gay ex-Olympic fencer has ever tried to take it away.

But now, according to the precepts laid out in the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act of 2011, there must first be a poorly attended 90-minute-long debate on the matter, followed by a near unanimous vote. They did as instructed.

Theresa May, we know, only came to the decision to call for an election "recently and reluctantly."

Her position in negotiations with Brussels had been fatally undermined by the “game playing” of democratically elected politicians with fundamentally different views from hers, and that simply will not do.

And as if to demonstrate her point, her vote on whether to hold a general election passed by a nervy 522 votes to 13. How liberated she will doubtless be, in seven weeks time when she no longer faces the threat of, say, 70-odd Labour MPs happily voting for an election that they know will cost them their jobs.

If the occasion was, technically, historic, it was certainly not memorable. If you ever pause to wonder why, in periodic popularity surveys put out by polling companies, politicians consistently score just below estate agents, traffic wardens and convicted sex offenders, it would certainly have been worth tuning in to Wednesday afternoon’s fun and games.

If there has been a hero of the last 24 hours, it has of course been "Brenda from Bristol’", that middle-aged woman whose undulating South-west vowels spoke for a knackered nation when, confronted by a TV crew on her doorstep telling her another general election was coming, turned her eyes skyward and said, “not another one.”

But would anyone speak for Brenda? Not a chance. Edward Leigh and Jacob Rees-Mogg both rose to question the wisdom of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.

Theresa May gave a mercifully abridged version of Tuesday morning’s statement, about the country’s need for “strong and stable leadership” of the kind eerily similar to that offered by David Cameron in a Facebook post in 2015, in which he gave voters a choice between “strong and stable leadership or chaos under Ed Miliband.” (Who, at night, closes their eyes and dreams of chaos under Ed Miliband?)

Jeremy Corbyn, it is scarcely worth mentioning, announced his ascension to election mode with a speech that, after it rose to its rousing conclusion, the Speaker did not invite anyone else to follow, assuming the Labour leader had sat down to allow for an intervention.

In fact, maybe someone did speak for Brenda. The SNP’s Tommy Sheppard may be wholly committed to the breakup of the nation, but that is no reason, in these mad times, for him not to be able to speak for it.

“I believe this is the sort of thing that gets politics a bad name in our country and it is what is leading to the alienation of many of our citizens from the political process,” he said. “There is only one reason the Prime Minister wants a general election on 8 June: she figures she has a better chance of winning it now than she does in the future. It is therefore the most blatant abuse of the democratic procedure for party political advantage, and as this campaign goes on it will be seen as that.”

The Prime Minister just shook her head. Another saboteur that must be crushed.

It was mere minutes later that the men and women of the shortest parliament since the 1970s walked through the division lobbies to terminate themselves.

It was back then, by the way – in 1979 to be exact – that James Callaghan deployed an old phrase about "turkeys voting for Christmas", and it stuck in the national vernacular for good.

So why did Labour do it? Well they had to, really. In political suicides, no one actually dies. And you still get to sit back and watch Jeremy Corbyn getting eaten alive too.

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