Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Snap General Election – It’s Theresa May that is Playing Politics not the Opposition

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, surprised everyone today by calling for a snap general election, intended for 8 June. May has been saying for months that there is no need for a general election before the scheduled date in 2020, so today’s announcement is a complete U-turn.

With the Fixed Term Parliament Act, calling snap elections is now not in the gift of the Prime Minister, but needs a two thirds approval by MPs. The opposition parties though have said they will vote in favour of the early election, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.

May insists that her change of heart on the matter has been brought on by the opposition parties opposing, (which is what they are meant to do) her version of Brexit. This is a rather weak excuse, and I suspect will fool no one. People, I think, will see it for what it is, pure political opportunism.

With the main opposition party, Labour, in disarray, and big leads for the government in opinion polls, as much as a 21% lead over Labour in some polls, and with uncertainty over how the Brexit negotiations with European Union (EU) will pan out, the temptation to increase her government’s majority in Parliament, was too much.

The Tories will probably win the general election easily, but there are risks involved for May in holding the election next month. The first is of a possible backlash against the decision from voters, who have shown no desire for an early poll. We had a general election two years ago, and the EU referendum a year ago, and voters don’t like having listen to all the political spin on too regular a basis. And they don’t like politicians ’playing politics’ with important issues and they may decide to punish those responsible for this – the government.

Connected to this, could be a low turn-out at the election. The EU referendum last year had a higher turn-out than any UK general election since 1992. If some of those leave voters don’t bother voting, but remain voters are galvanised by the chance to clip May’s wings, and do turn-out in big numbers, anything is possible.

Even worse, voters might see May's tactics akin to that of Turkish President Erdoğan's, dictatorial power grab, with his dubious referendum win at the weekend, which increases his powers over Parliament considerably. This looks suspiciously like what May is up to here with the snap general election.

Another risk, with the Lib Dems recovering their popularity to an extent, and I hear that those Tory MPs who won seats from the Lib Dems in 2015, are nervous of losing to a resurgent Lib Dem party, especially in areas where the majority voted to remain in the EU. May could end up with a smaller majority than she has now, which would weaken her politically, if it didn’t finish her off as Prime Minister entirely.

And then there is Scotland. May’s argument for denying the Scots a second independence referendum, is that nobody wants one and that the Brexit deal will not be complete (in terms of the exact outcome) and will be unknown. May can’t really use these arguments anymore because exactly the same can be said of holding a general election now.

Perhaps the most unlikely risk is that Labour will pull themselves together and do better than the opinion polls are forecasting, but this can’t be ruled out completely. We live in strange electoral times as we have seen in the last year or so, so it is unwise to dismiss this possibility entirely.

This certainly looks like a cynical ploy from the Prime Minister. If she really wanted to give the ‘people’ a say in her Brexit strategy, she could have called the election before triggering Article 50, which was the starting pistol for our formal leaving of the EU. 

But she didn’t want that at all, she just wants to bolster her position, as leader of the Tory party and to wipe out any opposition to her version of how we exit the EU. I just hope this all backfires, and May’s political career is brought to an ignominious end.

That is a cheery thought to end on. Let’s throw the arrogant Tories out! 

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