• MySTV

Analysis: General election looms after Lib Dem victory in Wales

Tories left with a working majority of just one in the Commons following Brecon by-election.

Lib Dems celebrate their by-election victory.
Lib Dems celebrate their by-election victory. Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Almost 350 miles away from the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh lies Brecon.

It's an unassuming, easy-going part of the UK that wouldn't register a second thought for many in Scotland.

So why has this market town in the Welsh countryside become important?

Well overnight, the small matter of a by-election result there could have pushed the UK closer to a general election.

The victory of the Liberal Democrats in the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency - and the rejection of sitting Tory MP Chris Davis, who had to face the by-election following guilty pleas to expenses fraud - now means that Boris Johnson will return to parliament after summer recess on September 3 with a working majority of one.

The new Prime Minister now has an even bigger mathematical challenge in the House of Commons than Theresa May did when her Brexit deal was rejected three times.

But why could this prompt an election?

Boris Johnson has spent his first week in office touring the UK, building on his newly self-appointed title of Minister for the Union and repeating that while a no-deal Brexit isn't his preference, it remains a realistic prospect.

But he hasn't had much love back from his "love-bombing" of the nations. He had difficult conversations with Ruth Davidson, Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and the leaders of the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Boris Johnson met Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh this week.
Boris Johnson met Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh this week. Duncan McGlynn / Getty

Not exactly giving much hope for a united approach to these crucial 90 days until the UK's scheduled departure from the EU on October 31.

So looking to the next few weeks...

The Prime Minister now has a majority of just one. He doesn't have the support of the leaders of the devolved nations and Ireland (and they have no problem in being public about their divisions with him). And there doesn't seem to be much movement coming from the EU.

For him, something has to change.

Now there could be the thought that a defeat in Brecon could cause a rethink to any potential snap election. But that is one seat. And right now, Boris Johnson doesn't have much else to lose.

Let's fast-forward to September 3

Boris Johnson returns to the Commons with not much wiggle room in the parliamentary arithmetic. He doesn't have a new deal from the EU. He is basically in the same position as Theresa May.

But he's also not as cautious at Theresa May. Or as concerned with persuading people from across the House to support his version of Brexit. He has the overwhelming support of the Tory Party members and the majority of their MPs.

He could and probably would return with a majority in an October election. He has much more support than Theresa May ever did from within the party. He would also attract back Conservative voters who sided with the Brexit Party at the European elections. He wouldn't get them all back - but enough to earn a majority.

That solves the numbers problem.

By having it in early October, it also means there is then the month of October for the EU to see he now has a majority to get 'no-deal' through if he has to, putting the ball in their court for any last-minute agreements.

Crucially, there is a European Council meeting on October 17 and 18 - two weeks before Brexit. This will be the first Boris Johnson will attend as Prime Minister. What could bolster his position more at that meeting with Merkel, Macron, etc, than entering the room knowing he has a strong majority back at Westminster? Again, pressure on the EU.

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1439443-will-boris-johnson-s-plans-for-brexit-and-the-union-collide/ | default

Finally, it buys him five years in power. Currently, the next UK general election is scheduled for May 5, 2022. If Mr Johnson was to wait until then, and if he were to lose that election, his premiership would be one of the shortest in recent history. Theresa May would have been in office longer than him. And that's a record he doesn't want.

So an election before Brexit sorts the Prime Minister's numbers problems, puts the pressure back on the EU and buys himself time.

And we return to Wales. While the Liberal Democrats may be celebrating, it's worth taking a moment to remember that this loss may not be causing the panic you'd expect in Number 10.

Buckle in, there could be a busy few months ahead.

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.


We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.


Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.


Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.



Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.