Halloween, marked on Oct 31, was supposed to be the day that Britain exited the European Union. That day has come and instead of Brexit, the country is headed for one of the most consequential and most unpredictable general elections in recent history. On the tortuous road since the 2016 referendum, the Dec 12 election is a high-stakes landmark for the future of its key protagonists and the future of Britain, whatever its outcome.
For Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the election offers a chance to gain a fresh mandate and working majority to pursue his Brexit goals, free from the grip of a "zombie Parliament" that has been unable to move forward despite over three years of furious debate. For the Labour Party, the stakes are perhaps even higher. It goes into an election with a far-left leader in Mr Jeremy Corbyn, a muddled message on Brexit and a deeply divided party. Polls show Labour lagging behind the Tories. Many of its MPs fear massive losses to the Liberal Democrats, who have positioned their party as the unequivocal standard bearer of the Remain camp, as well as to the Brexit Party and Conservatives, both eyeing seats in the Labour heartland that voted strongly for Brexit. Unlike the 2017 election, Mr Corbyn faces a far more formidable campaigner in Mr Johnson. The Tories have also dangled more money for healthcare and policing, issues close to voters' hearts and aimed at undercutting Labour's strength as a party of the working class.