Last week parliament confirmed that the British public will be heading back to the polls this winter, as MPs backed Boris Johnson's bid for a snap election on 12 December. In the first December election since 1923, it is set to be one of the most unpredictable elections in recent history, as Brexit narratives have the potential to cut through traditional voting patterns.
The election aims to move the ongoing Brexit bedlam forward, but with a hung parliament still on the cards, will we have any answers in time for Christmas?
ORDER...Sir Lindsay Hoyle
Last night Sir Lindsay Hoyle was appointed as speaker of the House of Commons. The Labour MP for Chorley has been the front-runner for the position since John Bercow announced his resignation on 9th September, and beat six rivals to the top spot. In his acceptance speech, the new speaker said he would be "neutral" in his role, stating "this House will change, but it will change for the better".
As we have seen over the past few months, the speaker's role is one that can be pivotal to proceedings in the house. John Bercow's choice of amendments has undoubtedly impacted the Brexit process to date, and with a hung parliament still a viable outcome in the upcoming election, the role of the speaker might again come to the forefront of the political process. However, whilst Bercow was in many ways an activist speaker, it is expected that Hoyle will be more transparent in his role, focusing on allowing the voice of the Commons to be heard. This will no doubt give Boris Johnson hope that a winning election campaign will finally allow him to deliver on his Brexit promise. The downside for the Tories however will be that Hoyle's leave-voting seat of Chorley will no longer be a target gain for the Conservatives.
So many lies
The past week has undoubtedly been a challenging one for the prime minister. Boris's 'do or die' Brexit date of the 31 October passed by like any other, with a new extension secured until the 31 January 2020. That said, the PM's failure to deliver his primary commitment since taking post has not seemed to deter his Leave support base, as Johnson's ability to secure a deal with the EU may just be enough to convince leave-voters that he is the man to deliver on the referendum result.
Yet despite the Tories' 'get Brexit done' slogan, for some hard-line Brexiteers the deal is too much of a compromise, and Johnson can no longer be trusted. Indeed, President Trump commented during his phone in with Nigel Farage on LBC that the deal restricts trade between the US and UK, and that a no-deal Brexit could lead to a much better trading relationship. It is against the backdrop of his failed Halloween deadline and challenges from the Brexit Party that Boris Johnson made his most recent Brexit promise - not to ask for an extension past 2020. If true, this means a Conservative government would leave the EU in 2020 'do or die'.
The PM will also face problems in this election as the narrative moves away from just the delivery of Brexit. Labour have been quick off the block in highlighting Boris' failure to deliver promises on affordable housing, and outgoing president of the EU commission Jean-Claude Juncker has accused the PM of telling 'so many lies' in the 2016 referendum campaign. The NHS has already become a key aspect of the election, with both main parties making huge funding pledges in an attempt to become 'the party of the NHS'.
Consequently, although the decision to call for an election was in some ways an inevitable move from the PM to overcome the current parliamentary paralysis, this does not mean a December election is without risks. Both the PM's government and his Brexit deal hang in the balance in this election, and it's impossible to know what will happen as disgruntled and disenfranchised members of the public brace the cold to have their say.
Another one bites the dust
Many MPs from across the House have confirmed they will not be standing for re-election. So far, over 50 MPs have stated they will not be running in the upcoming election, including several senior and long-standing MPs such as Ken Clarke, former speaker of the House John Bercow and former culture secretary Nicky Morgan. Many of these MPs have stated that the current political climate has wholly or partially contributed their decision to stand down, referencing their frustration with the parliamentary process and the impact Brexit has had on increased hostility towards politicians. In an open letter to her constituents, Heidi Allen said that Brexit has "broken our politics" and that the abuse she has faced in her role as MP for South Cambridgeshire was "utterly dehumanising". Allen has also backed the prominent new movement #StopTheNastiness, which aims to stop abuse in politics during the upcoming general election campaign.
Amongst those standing-down are MPs in marginal seats, such as former home secretary Amber Rudd, who has a majority of just 346 in her constituency of Hastings and Rye. These seats will become crucial campaign battlegrounds over the next six weeks, and with both major parties shifting closer to their ideological extremes, questions remain as to how more centrist voters will vote this time around - this could prove vital in determining the results of key marginals.
I won't stand if you won't
This election will inevitably be one of alliances, pacts and tactical voting. The Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru have already begun negotiations around a 'pro-remain alliance', with Sinn Fein announcing yesterday that they will not be standing in three seats to try and ensure a pro-remain candidate is selected. This strategy served the Lib Dems well earlier this year in Brecon and Radnorshire, where a pro-remain alliance coupled with the success of the Brexit party ousted will again be a key battleground, as the Tories hope to rally leave voters to take back the seat. Contrastingly, the Brexit Party's offer of a leave alliance with the Conservatives has been declined by the PM, and this could cause huge problems for the Conservatives' hopes of securing a large majority by spitting the Leave vote share.
Whilst alliances and Brexit are at the forefront of the electoral strategies for both the Conservatives and Lib Dems, Corbyn will hope that his campaign focus on domestic policies will overcome Brexit divides amongst his core base. The Labour leader began his campaign in the marginal seat of Battersea last week, citing his radical offering for the 'party of the people', taking on those who run a corrupt system. Incidentally, since the election has been called, Labour has seen a rise in the polls, with the latest ICM data suggesting that the Conservatives lead on just 38%, with Labour behind on 31% and the Lib Dems on 15%.
This poll is no-doubt a disappointment for the Lib Dems, who have seen a huge swell in recent months. However, with so many variables still in play, the vote share between four potential parties could sway seats across the UK. Tactical voting and campaigning strategies will be incredibly significant, whilst the importance of the campaign period itself should not be underestimated.
There is no doubt that this is a very volatile political environment, and there is no way to be certain about who will triumph in this election. However, we do know that both Boris and Jeremy are likely to thrive in a campaign environment, hoping to capture both their core base and picking up voters from across Brexit lines. The 'pro-remain alliance' and the Brexit party are also expected to do some damage to both Labour and the Conservatives, as Brexit convinces voters to move away from domestic political allegiances. What we do know for certain, is that if this election brings back another hung parliament, there will be big problems ahead...