Theresa May has announced a snap election in the United Kingdom for 8th June. In her announcement, May said that “at this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not. Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit.” The next scheduled general election was to be held in May 2020, but the British prime minister seems to have taken things into her own hands.
In June 2016, Theresa May had denied any possibility of the UK having general elections earlier than 2020. More specifically, she said that “I mean what I say and I say what I mean. There won’t be an early election. There should be no general election until 2020.” Three months later, during a TV interview, the British prime minister had rejected the idea of a snap election, despite her poll lead suggesting that she could increase her majority in the parliament. May had repeated that “I’m not going to be calling a snap election. I have been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability, to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020.”
It was in her Christmas message that Theresa May acknowledged the divisive effect of Brexit for the first time. “Of course, the referendum laid bare some further divisions in our country. As the MP Jo Cox had put it: ‘we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divide us.’” said the British prime minister, adding that she will negotiate hard for the better future of Great Britain outside of the European Union.
On 20th March, a spokesman for Downing Street had denied rumours indicating the prime minister’s will for elections. He stated that “there is not going to be an early general election. There is not going to be one until 2020. Any election outside the Fixed Term Parliaments Act timetable would count as early.” Not even a full month after the last official denial, Theresa May changed her mind and announced a snap election in June.
In her speech, May accused all opposition parties for wanting to weaken the government and its negotiating ability, in order to press it to change its course. “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 EU,” May said and didn’t neglect to confront members of the House of Lords who she called “unelected members that have vowed to fight us every step of the way.”
The leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, welcomed the prime minister’s decision by confirming that they will vote in favour for an early election. The agreement of the Labour party gives May a two-third majority in the Commons, a share that will help her override the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. Corbyn accused the Conservative government for failing to rebuild the economy and imposing damaging cuts in the NHS and in education.
Nicola Sturgeon, the First minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, called the Scottish to stand up for Scotland and accused the Conservatives of moving the UK to the right and planning a hard Brexit. Paul Nuttall, the UKIP leader, welcomed May’s decision for a general election in June, however didn’t hesitate to add that the Labour party is to blame, since “it is driven by Labour’s obvious weakness, not the good of the country.”
Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, accused May of failing to build a national consensus. Despite Jeremy Corbyn appearing ready to fight Theresa May in the election campaign, there are those who believe that the Labour party leader was surprised by May’s radical move. In most polls, the Tories seem capable of increasing their majority against the opposition parties, which is probably a serious factor that Theresa May took into consideration.
May’s possible victory will close down the argument that the Brexit referendum verdict wasn’t clear enough. If Tories win in June, it will mean the end of the anti-Brexit rhetoric that the opposition parties used a lot in the last year. Theresa May seems to have calculated her next move and taking all aspects into consideration, while her rivals seem unprepared and unable to resist her.