Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

Boris Johnson’s spending pledges fuel talk of snap election

On Sunday, Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly would not rule out the prospect of an early vote

Boris Johnson took charge as Britain's prime minister on July 24, on a mission to deliver Brexit by October 31 with or without a deal. / AFP / Isabel Infantes
Boris Johnson took charge as Britain's prime minister on July 24, on a mission to deliver Brexit by October 31 with or without a deal. / AFP / Isabel Infantes

Since Boris Johnson became Britain’s prime minister last month, the government has announced a series of spending measures on public services, reigniting talk of a snap election.

In the latest development on Sunday evening, Mr Johnson announced an extra £1.85 billion (Dh8.03bn) for Britain's National Health Service, to try to deliver on his 2016 Brexit campaign pledge while maintaining a focus on domestic policies.

On Monday, Mr Johnson will travel to Lincolnshire, eastern England, to lay out details of the plan, which will include 20 hospitals sharing £850 million of new funding to upgrade outdated facilities and equipment.

He will also confirm a £1bn boost to NHS capital spending, allowing existing upgrade programmes to proceed and move on with "urgent infrastructure projects".

With most of the funding going to hospitals in areas of the country that voted to leave the EU, MPs see this as an attempt by Mr Johnson to beat the electoral threat from the Brexit Party, which won the most UK seats in European elections in May.

The health care spending will covered by dipping into Philip Hammond’s £26.6bn “war chest fund” to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, a Downing Street spokesman said on Sunday.

During Mr Johnson’s leadership campaign, Mr Hammond warned the next prime minister not to spend the funds, because he expected them to be wiped out by a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Johnson has insisted he is not preparing for a snap election before the UK is due to leave the EU on October 31, but on Sunday, Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly did not rule out the prospect.

Although Mr Cleverly told Sky News that the government would not “initiate a general election”, it is thought that one may be triggered by a no-confidence vote in Parliament by the opposition Labour party.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did not table a motion before the parliamentary recess, which continues until September 3.

A by-election in the Welsh constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire at the weekend indicated that a snap election may not be a desirable for the ruling Conservatives, having lost their seat to the Liberal Democrats and reduced the party’s working majority to one seat.

The Labour party and Momentum, the left-wing, grass roots campaign associated with the party, put their activists on notice after Mr Johnson’s first day of prime minister less than two weeks ago, emailing them to prepare for a snap general election.

Meanwhile, the People’s Vote campaign, which calls for a second EU referendum, on Saturday narrowed down 100 marginal seats in which it will tell those opposed to Brexit to vote tactically in a snap election.

The campaign looks to increase the number of MPs who favour putting the issue of Brexit back to the people.

But Labour's inconsistent line on Brexit has hurt its prospects in a snap election. The party saw much of its vote in the European elections eaten up by the resurgence of the unequivocally anti-Brexit Liberal Democrat party.

Updated: August 5, 2019 10:17 AM

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