“Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May stunned many British politicians on Tuesday morning when she called for a snap election on June 8 as a way to help her negotiate through the Brexit process with the European Union.
May had said before that she would not hold a general election, but opposition from within the government over Brexit negotiations forced her hand. The London Times reported:
“The country is coming together but Westminster is not,” she said.
“Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit.
“Our opponents believe because the government’s majority is so small that our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change. They are wrong.
The Fixed-term Parliament Act requires May to receive “two-thirds majority of MPs to agree to a snap poll.” May will offer her motion to the House of Commons on Wednesday. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he will support a vote. From The Guardian:
“I welcome the prime minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first. Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS.
“In the last couple of weeks, Labour has set out policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country. We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain.”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron also welcomed the idea of a snap election. From The London Times:
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the election offered opponents of Brexit a “chance to change the direction of your country”.
He said: “If you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the single market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance.
“Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority.”
The Financial Times reported that May changed her mind after she received “advice from senior figures including Sir Lynton Crosby, mastermind of the 2015 election campaign.” Opinion polls have shown that the Conservatives have a 21 point lead over Labour, “a lead that, if translated into votes, would greatly increase the party’s existing working Commons majority of 17.” This will provide her with some leeway with Brexit negotiations.
Plus, the election will provide May with “her first opportunity to win a direct mandate to be prime minister.” She took over last year when David Cameron stepped down after the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU and her opponent dropped out of the race.
While May has the support from the opposition within Parliament, there are some on the left who have freaked out over the suggestion of holding this snap election.
Guardian writer Anne Perkins has claimed that the election is a coup and has called on parliament members to stop May from holding one:
There will be no obligation on her to reflect the views of the minority position. She will leave the remainers of England disempowered. She has made a Scottish referendum inevitable, and a border poll in Northern Ireland infinitely more likely. She is resetting politics in a way that will entrench division. We will all rue this day.
May has trashed her brand. She did that once before, with that “nasty party” speech aeons ago, in 2002. That damaged her. This will do something infinitely worse. It will damage politics, not only in the short term, but for a generation.
On the way, she is not only making a nonsense of her signature determination to treat political process with due respect, not to treat politics as a game – she has rebranded all opposition as game-playing.
But former prime minister Cameron has praised May for her decision:
Mrs May’s predecessor, David Cameron, praised the “brave” decision to go to the polls early.
Mr Cameron, who the former home secretary replaced as prime minister and Tory leader last July, tweeted: “Brave – and right – decision by PM [Theresa May]. My very best wishes to all Conservative candidates.”
London Times political reporter Henry Zeffman wrote that May wants the election so she can push through her Brexit ideas:
Mrs May said she wanted “unity” to replace “division” at Westminster, but her nascent manifesto presented her as the guardian of the 52 per cent against the forces of opposition from the recalcitrant portions of the 48 per cent.
But Mrs May’s decision is not about seeking licence to deliver a so-called hard Brexit. More likely she wants to be liberated from the clutches of hardline Conservative backbenchers who her fragile working majority of 17 forces her to rely upon.
Push that number up above 100 and Mrs May will boast an enormous personal mandate to deliver whatever form of Brexit she sees fit.