If you are a British citizen with an internet connection, chances are you’ve probably heard the news that Theresa May has announced there will be a general election taking place on 8th June making it the fourth time in two years that voters in the UK will head down to the polls.
May initially said that she would not trigger an election but it seems she couldn’t resist the opportunity to wipe out Corbyn’s Labour once and for all. According to her, the election is necessary to put to rest all the “political game playing” of the opposition and she claims that she has “only recently and reluctantly” come to this decision.
The motive becomes pretty clear when taking into account that the Conservatives seem to have a firm electoral lead over Labour, according to recent polls. A YouGov poll from over the weekend put the Tories at 44 percent to Labour’s 23 percent, with 50 percent of the sample choosing Theresa May as the best Prime Minister over Corbyn’s 14 percent.
She also needs a renewed mandate for the government’s Brexit strategy. Despite the endless repetition of stock phrases such as “Brexit Means Brexit”, the past few months of back and forth between Brussels and London has shown it’s not that simple. Although calling a General Election won’t alleviate uncertainty, it will provide the government with a mandate for whatever form its version of Brexit finally takes. As May mentioned in her statement, “Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of the European Union.”
As The Guardian has noticed, there’s another reason why it would be in the government’s interest to call a general election now: the Crown Prosecution Service is “due to make a decision quite soon about whether to charge Tories” in relation to alleged electoral fraud in the 2015 General Election. Calling a new election would eliminate the need for politically damaging by-elections.
Although many politicians and journalists have waxed lyrical about the government’s apparent “lack of opposition” since the Brexit vote, the Prime Minister cited the overwhelming chorus of disapproval from the opposition parties as the main reason for calling this election stating:
“In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the deal we reach with the European Union. The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill. The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union…If we do not hold a General Election now their political game playing will continue.”
Several weeks ago Labour published six conditions that the Brexit deal has to meet – which included delivering a free trade agreement that provides the “exact same benefits” as membership of the single market. It said it would consider voting against the package May returns with from Brussels if any of the conditions weren’t met. It was a smart move, but a General Election could take the wind out of Labour’s sails. If it delivers a larger majority for the Tories, May will be able to silence further criticism – for a while, at least.
There has been much speculation about what the response from the left will be with some predicting a Lib Dem resurgence for the first time since Nick Clegg’s fairly ineffective coalition with David Cameron. Others have suggested this will only lead to a greater loss for Labour with many Blairites jumping ship. There is however the potential for an upset if Corbyn is able to mobilize young voters in the way that he threatened to do when he gained the Labour leadership.
The most likely scenario is that the Tories will win no matter what but the most interesting aspect of this election will probably be what happens with the other parties. It may seem like Britain is destined to remain Conservative forever but in a world Donald Trump is the president of the United States anything can happen.