Since 2022 when the fixed term parliament act was repealed, in Spain like the UK, it’s in the gift of the incumbent Prime Minister to decide whether to call an early General Election. This is precisely what Pedro Sanchez did, catching his opponents on the hop at a time when then were busy negotiating coalitions for regional parliaments across Spain following the local elections in May.
That’s why we’ve seen a relentless focus from Keir Starmer’s Labour Party on being prepared for a UK General Election. Listen to anyone in the Party they’ll tell you they’re working towards May 2024 whether its candidate selection, campaigning on the ground or policy development. Whilst many think that Rishi Sunak won’t go for a vote until the autumn next year, when he hopes that inflation and interests rate will be under control, we know that Labour will be ready. Sunak can’t pull the same trip that Sanchez did.
However, there is another significant lesson that might prove more challenging for the Labour Party. PSOE and Pedro Sanchez focused their campaign on coalition talk, warning the Spanish public about the potential regression towards the era of Franco if they voted for the centre right party who need the support of the extreme right wing Vox to get to power.
Labour’s decision to effectively stand down their candidate in Somerset and Frome, giving the Liberal Democrats a clear path to win the seat, is not an uncommon strategy in politics. However, it does come with potential risks. The Conservative Party heavily wounded Ed Miliband in the 2015 elections, by accusing him of being under the influence of the SNP. A similar tactic could be employed by the Tories now, using Labour’s cooperation with fellow opposition candidates as a means to repeat the familiar message: “Vote Labour, get X” in an attempt to sway voters, which seems to have partially worked in Spain.
Finally, in a week where the Tories managed to defy the odds and retain Uxbridge, and Pedro Sanchez narrowly held on to power in Madrid, there is a crucial lesson in politics, particularly for Keir Starmer: one can never be certain of attaining power until you actually step foot in number 10 Downing Street.