Theresa May shocked British politicians when she announced on Tuesday (18/4/2017) that she will request from Parliament to hold a general election on 8 June so that she will make a success of Brexit. On the one hand, her news sent the pound up 1 per cent against the US dollar to 1.257, following a 0.3 per cent dip an hour before. On the other hand, Larry the Downing Street cat was just not “bovvered” about the news, photographed sitting casually at the steps of Downing Street. 

Just after the Easter break, and before politicians have managed to recover from the excesses of Easter, Theresa May took the role of the Easter Bunny bringing the news of an early general election outside Number 10. She explained that an early election is necessary so that there is a cohesive government that will be able to deliver a successful Brexit. 

In her statement in Downing Street, May said: “Our opponents believe that because the government’s majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course ....If we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing will continue, and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election. Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country.”

If Theresa May wins…

Although previously, on 20 March, May’s spokesman said that there wasn’t going to be a general election, the sudden change seems to have been the result of advice May took from Sir Lynton Crosby and other senior officials. Crosby is an interesting figure for managing campaigns that have been associated with anti-immigration and racist slogans and was allegedly reported making anti-Muslim comments. He was also involved in linking London mayor Sadiq Khan to terrorist organisations. A strategist of the Liberal Party of Australia, he has managed election campaigns for right parties in various countries, including the Conservative Party’s 2005 UK general election and Boris Johnson’s London 2008 mayoral election campaigns. With two polls, last weekend, showing that the Tories are ahead of Labour with 21 points, this might turn out to be a timely move for May. As politics professor Martin Smith said, "Clearly the reason for the election is that with Labour so weak in the polls, it is an opportunity for the Conservatives to win a landslide victory. With a large Conservative majority, the government will be able to get through any Brexit deal.” He also added that this will also create some difficulties associated with the potential of a second Scottish referendum and the campaign’s focus on what kind of post-EU Britain the Conservatives want.

Paul Nuttall, Ukip’s leader, said that the PM’s decision is “cynical” and is driven “more by the weakness of Corbyn’s Labour party rather than the good of the country.” He didn’t miss the opportunity to praise Ukip as the only party that is “committed to a clean, quick and efficient Brexit.” 

Since May became a Prime Minister without a public vote, winning a general election and a direct mandate to be Prime Minister would enable her to gain more credibility as a politician and power to push her Brexit plans. In addition, while the Tories’ current majority isn’t enough in order to pass the Repeal Bill, the two recent polls will help them increase their majority. Winning a general election will also facilitate May’s plans to pursue her own policies and abandon those of her predecessor, David Cameron. Philip Hammond backed her decision by saying the move would ensure “strong leadership” and “stability.”

Fixed-term Parliament Act 2011

The Fixed-term Parliament Act has introduced fixed-term elections to Westminster parliament which must be held every five years, beginning in 2015. The government can push for an earlier election only in the case of a vote of no confidence by a simple majority or with the support of two-thirds of MPs. May has said that she will take the second alternative. Labour, SNP and the Lib Dems have all welcomed the news of an early election.

Why this might not be a good move

For some political commentators, May “has turned democracy against itself.” Many fear that if she wins, she will pursue a hard Brexit, ignoring the views of the minority position and of remainers, including Scotland and Northern Ireland. According to Anne Perkins, “She is resetting politics in a way that will entrench division. We will all rue this day.” Perkins stressed that May’s decision will only make life for those just-about-managing hard, because her views constantly change to satisfy her fanged backbenchers, and not the people.

May is going to ask MPs to vote tomorrow on a motion to have an early general election. The motion will possibly pass with the support of the SNP, Labour and the Lib Dems.