She’s done it, we all thought she would, she was adamant that she wouldn’t but earlier today Theresa May announced that she would call a general election for June 8th this year. Apart from the timing, her decision hasn’t really come as a surprise considering the political landscape we find ourselves. Calling an election, especially an early one is always a gamble, for some the gamble doesn’t pay off (Cameron and the EU referendum) – so is May’s decision clever or cocky?
The Prime Minister explained her decision on the grounds of the ‘national interest’ and the need for stability in these divisive times following the Brexit vote last year. However, we should see this for what it really is – political opportunism. You can’t blame her; in Parliament she has a slim majority, while in the polls the Conservatives are at 44% and the closest opposition, Labour, are at a pathetic 23% with their weakest leader since Michael Foot. If anything, most political commentators are surprised it took her this long to decide to do it.
Watching the news this afternoon you would be mistaken for thinking the election had already been held and the Tories declared victorious. However, it would be a mistake to assume that Theresa May has got this in the bag. At the very least, if the 2015 general election, the EU referendum and more recently Trump’s election have taught us anything; it is that polls prove absolutely nothing.
There are a number of problems that could derail May’s path to the huge majority she seeks. First of all, it is worth noting that of the 330 seats (she currently has) 29 of them are ones that the Tories took from the Liberal Democrats (who were being punished for the coalition). To come back with a larger majority May not only has to hold on to these seats but also gain from Labour. Can she do this? In a lot of areas UKIP, not the Conservatives threaten Labour strongholds, and in more metropolitan areas it’s the Lib Dems.
Moreover, there is the ever contentious issue of Brexit, Theresa May has been very clear that she considers this election as a vote on Brexit, and how a vote for the Conservatives is a vote to deliver her vision of Britain’s departure from the EU. Now while, a majority voted to leave, 48% of the voting population did not, so she is potentially isolating pro-EU Conservative voters. I was a Conservative for 10 years and it was Brexit (and other issues) that pushed me to joining the Liberal Democrats. Could the remainers punish the Tories with a Liberal comeback? Only time will tell. On top of all this, there is still the Scotland question and the problems in Northern Ireland; both of which will not go away with this election.
For all those who do not share Theresa May’s vision; this election (while opportunistic) should be seen as our chance to stand up for the kind of country we want to live in. A country that is open, tolerant and fair. That’s why I’ll be voting Liberal Democrat on June 8th.