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Boris Johnson finally has something to smile about. Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images

LONDON — The U.K. will go to the polls with Brexit still in the balance, as Parliament cleared the way Tuesday evening for a snap general election on Dec. 12.

Why it matters: Prime Minister Boris Johnson stormed into office three months ago vowing to deliver Brexit by Oct. 31, but was thwarted by a Parliament that remains hopelessly deadlocked amid the current political crisis. Johnson believes he can break that deadlock by winning a majority in December, but a loss could render him one of the shortest-serving prime ministers in history.

Catch up quick: Johnson attempted on Monday — following the EU's move to extend the Brexit deadline yet again, to Jan. 31 — to schedule a December election while leaving open a window to pass his Brexit plan before then.

  • After that attempt failed, he put his Brexit plan on ice and aligned with two fiercely anti-Brexit opposition parties, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, who were also calling for a December vote.
  • Together they outflanked the Labour Party, which has been struggling in the polls amid a split over Brexit and under Jeremy Corbyn's unpopular leadership.
  • The latest: With the writing on the wall, Corbyn also backed a December election and the bill passed 438-20. Parliament is expected to dissolve next week to make way for the campaign.

Current polls (FT poll tracker):

  • Conservatives (35%), Labour (25%), Liberal Democrats (18%), Brexit Party (11%).
  • Regional parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have less support nationally but are also expected to win seats.

What to expect: Johnson will run as the man who'll make Brexit happen, aiming to win over pro-Brexit voters in the North of England who have historically backed Labour.

  • He needs to win seats in the Labour heartland to make up for losses in Scotland and greater London, where Brexit is unpopular.
  • The insurgent Brexit Party could take votes from both parties — Conservative voters who endorse a more hardline vision of Brexit, and Labour voters who want Brexit but don't want to vote Conservative.
  • The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, have gained support (mostly at Labour's expense) on the back of their plan to block Brexit altogether.

Behind the scenes: Internal polling and focus groups have Downing Street feeling confident, a source briefed on the matter told Axios.

  • But the Conservatives were also flying high ahead of a snap general election in 2017 that ultimately proved disastrous for then-Prime Minister Theresa May.
  • Corbyn exceeded expectations in that election and has survived longer as opposition leader than most anticipated. Despite record-low approval ratings, he now has an opportunity to become prime minister.
  • If Labour loses, the party could soon be searching for a new leader and a new political identity.

The bottom line: Conventional wisdom in Westminster is that Johnson is likely to win, though perhaps not with the big majority some Conservatives are hoping for. But the U.K.'s recent political history suggests we should be prepared for the unexpected.

Go deeper

McCarthy jokes about hitting Pelosi with gavel if he becomes Speaker, in new audio

Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) can be heard saying "it would be hard not to hit" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the speaker's gavel if Republicans retake the House in 2022 and he becomes speaker, according to new audio posted to Twitter by a Main Street Nashville reporter.

Driving the news: McCarthy made the comments during a fundraising event in Tennessee, as he was handed an oversized gavel by members of the Tennessee congressional delegation, reports CNN.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

U.S. and U.K. blame Iran for drone strike on oil tanker

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Photo: Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that the United States and United Kingdom, respectively, now believe Iran was likely responsible for last week's drone strike on an oil tanker in the Arabian sea.

Why it matters: The United States and Britain now join Israel in accusing Tehran of being behind the July 29 attack off the coast of Oman. Iran has denied involvement.

9 hours ago - Sports

Suni Lee wins bronze medal in uneven bars

Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

U.S. gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee won her 3rd Olympic medal on Sunday, taking home bronze in the individual uneven bars event.

Driving the news: Also on Sunday, U.S. gymnast MyKayla Skinner won the silver medal in the vault on Sunday after stepping in for Simone Biles, who withdrew from the event to prioritize her mental health and well-being.