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Backers of Boris Johnson’s campaign to become Britain’s next prime minister are war-gaming an early election within months of him winning power, according to people familiar with the matter.
With a new leader who can inspire the country and take on Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, the Conservatives can win an outright majority in Parliament in the next election, according to the people, who asked not to be named. There is no formal timetable for an election, but a vote in the autumn would be an option on the table if Johnson wins, one of the people said.
The next general election is not due to take place until 2022 but Britain’s ruling Conservative Party is struggling to pass its Brexit laws in Parliament, where it lacks an overall majority. That stalemate forced Prime Minister Theresa May to resign and Johnson is now the front-runner in the party leadership election that is due to conclude next month.
Calling a snap poll would be a gamble -- especially if Brexit remains unresolved -- but some of Johnson’s allies believe a charismatic leader and the right campaign will radically change the political climate.
Election, Brexit Deadline
An autumn election would be complicated by the deadline for finalizing a Brexit deal with the EU, of Oct. 31. If no deal is struck and the two sides fail to agree to a further delay to the negotiating period, Britain will exit the bloc without an agreement, potentially causing severe disruption to trade and damage to the economy.
If Johnson’s attempt to renegotiate a better deal with the EU before the deadline fails, he could be forced into an emergency election to win a mandate for leaving the bloc without an agreement.
Johnson played down speculation over his intentions when asked in a TV debate on Tuesday whether he would call a national poll early, but he did not rule it out. Nobody "sensible" wants an election "immediately," he said.
One of Johnson’s friends and long-term collaborators, the election strategist Lynton Crosby, suggested Tuesday that the Tories could win an election with the right leader offering an upbeat message. “With a change in leadership, that creates the opportunity for us to be heard again,” Crosby told the Policy Exchange think-tank in London.
‘He Could Win’
The party needs someone with the “character” and “authenticity” to succeed as a communicator, Crosby said, drawing links to President Donald Trump and his ability to connect with voters.
Crosby helped Johnson win two mayoral elections and the pair speak frequently. He also helped former Prime Minister David Cameron win a surprise majority in 2015, and worked on Prime Minister May’s failed campaign in 2017.
In that 2017 snap election, Labour’s Corbyn benefited because many voters did not believe he had a chance of winning, so they felt supporting him was cost-free, Crosby argued.
That won’t happen again, he added, speaking in a way that suggested he believed an election may come sooner than planned: “This time, that dynamic significantly changes. The threat is real. He could win.”
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