News

Here's What Westminster Insiders Really Think About the General Election

"I'm pretty certain it's going to be the worst election I've taken part in, professionally or voluntarily."
04 November 2019, 12:43pm
Council workers counting votes.
Council workers counting votes. Photo by Mark Waugh / Alamy Stock Photo
Commons Confessions is a column by political journalist and author Marie Le Conte. Keep reading for more anonymous insight into British politics from those in the know.

Hey! So after weeks of maybe having an election, then definitely not having an election, then perhaps having an election…?, then absolutely not having an election – we are having a general election. How do people in Westminster feel about it? What will happen over the next few weeks? We chatted to some MPs, advisers, journalists and wonks to find out – all anonymously, obviously, so they could tell us what they really thought.

ON THE GENERAL ELECTION FINALLY HAPPENING

“Having the election now is the least worst option for the Tories. Corbyn, with his incredibly poor personal ratings, is still in post, and the memory of Boris's efforts to 'get Brexit done' in Parliament is still fresh enough – next year it wouldn't have been. But it’s still a huge gamble and yes, it could go catastrophically wrong for Boris when you look at possible SNP and Lib Dem gains.”

“The timing of this election is painful for everyone! For our constituents and for our campaigners. I thrive [off] campaigning in a general election and I hope to win back my seat, but we have to be realistic that the dynamic of politics in the country has changed.”

“We’ve been waiting for an election for nearly two months. If anything, I am relieved it is now actually happening, rather than [being] constantly possible and constantly talked about. The phrase ‘a change is as good as a break’ comes to mind, but for all the wrong reasons. The country doesn’t get a break from it, but anything different happening in Brexit terms feels like a bit of psychological relief.”

“The timing of the campaign is a good one – we can stop Brexit and genuinely there is a properly upbeat feel! We are excited. Personally though, I am looking forward to explaining to my wife why I am having to set my alarm for 4.30AM and cancel her birthday plans…”

“It's nice to get out of London, but an enforced holiday to the suburban North West wasn't the trip I would have picked.”

“I groaned and sighed and felt pretty deflated, to be honest. Just the sheer fatigue of the past few years and to think that it's not over – nowhere near over! A few of us were in the wood-lined lift [in Parliament] on the day it was apparent we were having a winter election, and we kind of just leaned against the walls and muttered 'oh shit'. However, a few days on and we've had campaign launches from Labour and the Brexit Party – and it's exciting."

ON THE ELECTION HAPPENING IN DECEMBER

“I'm pretty certain it's going to be the worst election I've taken part in, professionally or voluntarily. Having it in December is a farce but as staff of MPs, we've had it hanging over our heads for ages now. It's been horrible and we haven't been able to make plans for anything, socially, professionally etc. The only positive is having a date for it so we can get it done.”

“Working for an MP isn't easy and it is a risk but the idea of me or my colleagues and friends being unemployed come Christmas takes it beyond challenging and makes it farcical.”

“I'm pretty concerned about my own safety and that of activists and other staff. Knocking on doors in the dark with no knowledge of the area – with the mood of the country how it is – is such a terrible idea.”

“On campaigning in the winter: it’s a complete myth that it doesn’t help Labour. The Momentum students and people in their 20s won’t care for the etiquette of not knocking on doors when it’s dark; they’ll be out to give the government a kicking, whereas Tories who are older and in more rural seats are less likely to go out.”

“I don’t think it matters that it is happening in December. Last Christmas was full of Brexit parliamentary drama and exhausting. But there are more important things to worry about in the world. We will probably have to work long hours again, but are lucky to have the jobs we do.”

ON ALL THOSE FEMALE TORY MPS STANDING DOWN

“I did not expect Nicky Morgan to stand down – very troubling if it's a sign that being a female MP is getting harder, which seems to be the case.”

“I think it puts massive pressure on CCHQ to hit their target – Women2Win is amazing but it’s often just the twin set and pearl candidates who get ahead which is wrong – and at this stage they’re not going to hit their 50/50 target.”

“CCHQ can pretend it is not a problem, but if you lose [immigration minister] Seema Kennedy after four years, you can’t compare her to the retiring grandees. There should be more hand wringing and you don’t get the sense there is. And if you lose Theresa Villiers in the election, who are the only senior women in the Cabinet – Priti Patel and Liz Truss?”

ON WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

“The result is harder than ever before to predict – just listen to the TV vox pops. The idea that there is a single demographic 'Workington man' to win over is wishful thinking, sadly. The second surprise is what the election will be about; one moment or issue that we can't predict yet. Maybe Brexit, maybe not. I suspect not, in which case Boris may have to win on NHS, education, crime. If voters think Brexit is very nearly done, they will be thinking more and more about post-Brexit policy.”

“I don’t think it will succeed in breaking any deadlock. It will just create new ones. The emotional [and] political divides will continue regardless. Even if there is a majority government one way or the other and some policy progress, the country will only ‘move on’ when it fades into the background and other issues come back up the agenda. The election just feels like a short hiatus in the parliamentary setting of this story.”

“Some MPs appear very certain that they will lose their seats, so are kind of doing a few nostalgic tweets and Instagrams already. For some, it's going to be a really hard road. You will see 2017 MPs lose their seats and they'll feel like they only just got started.”

@youngvulgarian