The government’s weak majority with the DUP is far from being fortress-secure. Anyone seriously expecting this government – and this parliament – to last all the way to 2022 is having a laugh. Just a handful of by-elections, and even a couple of defections, could bring the government down.
May's administration is facing attacks on multiple fronts: from its DUP allies, from soft-Brexit Tory back-benchers, from hard-Brexit back-benchers, from a momentum-wielding Labour party, not to mention from the EU during tough trade negotiations. For now, the government is bumbling along, its very existence at risk of ending in an unfortunate mix of pressures from all sides.
The government is clearly at risk at collapse, but the question is when? A break-down before EU negotiations are complete would jeopardise those negotiations and could have disastrous consequences for the UK if it is plunged into a new election or left without a government.
For Labour, their best hope is a post-Brexit election. As the Conservatives are in government, the media pressure is predominantly on them when it comes to the UK's exit from the union. Labour is not under as much pressure to deliver as they are not in charge of the government machine. It’s no surprise that Labour has been relatively quiet in recent weeks. Allowing Brexit negotiations to continue without making much progress and keeping silent, and focusing on issues such as universal credit – which is still a very important and pressing issue – is a good strategy, allowing the media to critique the government on Brexit while not asking too much from Labour.
A post-Brexit election, one following no deal or a deal that will probably leave the UK worse off is the best thing Labour can hope for. It is up to the Conservatives to deliver Brexit, which they will inevitably be blamed for. The next election is Labour’s to lose. If momentum continues to be in the party’s favour, forcing a snap election – if the numbers add up – would give the party the chance to return to government.
On top of that, if Theresa May leads her party into this snap election, the contrast between a limping and wounded May against a statesman-like Corbyn could deliver a thumping victory for the Labour party. A five-year wait could allow the Tories to rebuild and organise.
If Labour wants to return to power, it must lay the ground-work for a snap election in 2019 or 2020.
For Corbyn, timing is everything.