‘I’m not going to call a snap election’, Theresa May September 4th 2016
One can’t place too much blame on Ms May for going back on her word, the temptation of the landslide victory the polls predict and the desire to end the never-ending ‘hilarious’ satire about replacing one set of unelected leaders with another. The fact that she didn’t call an election even sooner is the real shock of this announcement.
In all serious though, why now? Why place a definite 3 more years in office on the line? May had overcome the hurdle of Parliament approving Article 50 and the current state of the Labour opposition would likely have given her free reign over the next two years of EU negotiations. Yet she still found herself coming ‘reluctantly’ to the decision to call a snap election over what she called the disparity between Westminster and the country it is supposed to represent. While it is undeniable that most MP’s are not diehard Brexiteer’s, to say that they are unwilling to execute the will of the British people is just a little bit untrue. Not really a shocker as she couldn’t really justify this announcement with the actual reasons she called this election which come down to two key issues. She needs a win and she’ll get one.
To begin with the former, while Ms May is legally as legitimate as any other PM, not one member of the public (even party members) have voted her into this office. On top of this, the wafer thin majority of the Tories leaves her vulnerable to the smallest of rebellions. One need only look to the embarrassing U-turn over National Insurance contributions some weeks ago to see that May cannot govern without a manifesto of her authorship and a sizeable majority to enact it. Indeed now must be the best time to go for this, she is currently nearly 20 points ahead in polling averages with Labour ‘safe seats’ falling to the Tories and there is little sight of this changing anytime soon. But she cannot make the same mistake as Gordon Brown and take this honeymoon period popularity as entrenched support which could waver away within a few weeks. This placed her in the precarious position. To go all in, throw a fastball at an unsuspecting Westminster and exploit current popularity to cement her position but probably discard one of her greatest assets, Jeremy Corbyn himself. Or to play the long game, endure 3 more years of slim majorities and backbench rebellions for the possibility of securing a likely victory in 2020. In the short term, she’s likely played her cards right. The public and most likely many parties have been caught off guard with this announcement and May’s landslide victory seems almost inevitable. She will be able to enact Brexit entirely as she desires without the need to appease party factions and will be released from the clamour of illegitimacy. But they say a week is a long time in politics so 3 years is an eternity. A chance for Labour to reboot and get itself in order for the next General Election could deliver a resurgence in post-Brexit Britain and throw away May’s chances for being PM till 2025.
For someone who repeatedly argues that “politics is not a game”, she’s certainly playing it risky. But ultimately it’s likely she’s made the smart choice. 3 years is too long a match to play when you’re in a career that could be ended in a matter of weeks (RIP David). May may well have jeopardised any long term career goals but she’d rather be able to spend the next few years with political capital that could make Blair weep than follow in the footsteps of the powerless damp rags that were Major and Brown.
With regards to whoever will be waking up smiling on June the 9th, I’d take the cowards response and say it’s too early to say who that will be. But May appears fairly confident (as one might expect) and the chirpy responses of the Lib Dems are well founded with a unified anti-Brexit vote serving them well. But the glum sounds coming from Labour MP’s who are already looking up their local job centres fails to inspire much hope of a resurgence. Though if 2016 taught students of politics one thing, never say never. Can Corbyn pull a rabbit out of his Breton mariner cap, we’ll see.
On a different tone, I’d have to tell you all to register to vote. Vote for whomever, spoil your vote, the right to do so is yours. But there is no justification for not even voting, it’s not an act of apathy as it is an act of laziness. So do yourself and everyone a favour and vote on the 8th June.