In Depth

Should Theresa May call an early general election?

William Hague warns 'trouble is coming' over Brexit and urges PM to look for bigger majority

Former Conservative leader William Hague has called on Prime Minister Theresa May to hold an early general election.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said that "trouble is coming" over the next two years when the government tries to implement Brexit. He said that May needed a bigger majority in the House of Commons to force through the myriad changes.

"We have a new Prime Minister and Cabinet facing the most complex challenges of modern times," Hague wrote.

There is "no doubt that they would be in a stronger position to take the country through these challenges successfully if they had a large and decisive majority in the Commons and a new full term ahead of them", he added.

The next general election is due in May 2020 under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act but Hague suggests repealing the legislation, which says there should be an election every five years unless two-thirds of lawmakers agree to an earlier vote or the government loses a vote of no confidence.

"A bill to repeal the Act could be introduced this year and be law by late 2018, even if it became necessary to override opposition in the Lords," he wrote.

Furthermore, Hague believes the Conservatives "would have a very good chance" of securing a large majority.

"An election now would follow the rare experience of a by-election gain for the government and would catch the Labour Party in its worst condition since the early 1930s, and with its least credible leader ever," he said.

So will May do it?

A No 10 source told the BBC it was not something May "plans to do or wishes to do".

But that doesn't mean it won't happen.

"The legitimate fear is that any rush to the country would make her look tricksy, especially when most voters want her to get on with Brexit, but the prize is a great one" says Reaction's Iain Martin.

Hague's "timing is bang on", says the Huffington Post's Paul Waugh, given the Lords is almost certain to defeat the government for a second time over Brexit.

"If she gets a majority of 70 or more (and some in Labour really fear that a snap election could deliver one), Theresa May knows that she will be better equipped to take on the peers as well as her own rebels," he says.

Does Labour want an early election?

Jeremy Corbyn said his party would "consider" any change to get rid of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, adding: "We are very confident of the support we can get in order to win the election."

A new Guardian/ICM poll asked the public which team was better equipped to handle the economy. It put May and her Chancellor Philip Hammond 31 percentage points ahead of Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

"They are terrible figures for Labour, not least because many people believe that economic competence figures provide a better guide to who will win a general election than headline polling figures," says [5]The Guardian's Andrew Sparrow.

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