About 2 months ago, Joe Lorenzo posted ‘What’s coming up in 2017?’ as a quick run-down of what we could expect in the coming months: the political calendar for 2017. Few could predict we’d be adding “UK General Election” to the cards for the 8th June (coinciding nicely with the Edexcel AS Unit 2 Politics Exam). At an irritatingly inaccurate 11:08, Theresa May announced a snap-election, to “guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead” but why has she really called this snap-election, and is it a foregone conclusion?
“I want to explain the reasons for that decision.”
Though as it appears the party hasn’t had a leadership crisis recently, this may cause concern for May’s 17-seat majority- the slimmest parliamentary majority since Harold Wilson’s 1964 majority of just 1 seat. The claim is, pushing any legislation through on a ‘Hard Brexit’ has proven to be increasingly difficult, with no other major parliamentary party supporting the Conservative party-line.
But as Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper explained, the opposition hasn’t intentionally blocked Article 50. In fact, it wasn’t even close, in both the Second and Third Readings in the Commons, over 80% of the votes were in favour. Labour even called for a ‘three-line whip’ which resulted in resignations from the Shadow Cabinet and Chief Whips in the party, who felt they were being forced to vote against their constituency’s wishes. It begs the question: what is May collecting this mandate for? Most likely, a plan for Hard Brexit. Or a safety net for the backlash?
As it stands, we’ll be leaving the EU officially 2019, a year before the originally planned general election in 2020. Many have predicted the economic downturn that may befall the UK as a result, which could have lead to a poor election for the Conservatives. Calling the election whilst Brexit is still in the works and Corbyn is still widely regarded as unelectable, she seems to be:
- Kicking Labour while they’re down
- Gaining a mandate large enough to push through her plans for Brexit
- Creating a safety net for passing any form of austerity, budgets to save the country’s economy post-Brexit
- Creating a safety net for passing the forms of austerity you’d expect from your typical Tory government, which she can’t with her current majority
However, she must have been well-aware of all these factors even when she took on the role in July- so why now? Why, especially after her promises she wouldn’t?
Dennis Skinner, grumpy old man, Labour rebel, and all -around legend, seems to think it may have something to do with the 30+ Tory MPs accused of election fraud. He claims that if the candidates accused ran it would be a “squalid election” campaign, but May has confirmed that the MPs under investigation will run, “campaigning for a Conservative government that will give a brighter and better future for this country.” Despite this, the Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed the charges would have to be made before 8th June, during the election campaign.
Whatever the cause for the election, it will be an interesting campaign nonetheless, and perhaps not, as is widely regarded, a predetermined outcome.
Is it a foregone conclusion?
OTHELLO: O monstrous, monstrous!
IAGO: Nay, this was but his dream
OTHELLO: But this denoted a foregone conclusion
Just as Othello dreams of Cassio sleeping with his wife Desdemona, which he believes to be a foregone conclusion, Jeremy Corbyn’s nightmares of 20% polling too denotes a foregone conclusion- surely? Or is that view as delusional as Othello’s green-eyed monster?
It seems (unfortunately) not. Predictions? Think 1997, but tipped in the Conservative’s favour. Current Westminster voting intention is 48% to May, 24% to Corbyn, 12% to Farron and 7% to the headless chicken for UKIP. Pollsters certainly see it as a foregone conclusion, with some predicting a Tory landslide in the region of 400+ seats. The Liberal Democrats are also predicted to see a post-Brexit surge, claiming back seats lost in 2015 or gaining seats in a Brexit protest vote (à la the Richmond Park by-election.)
To win, Labour would have to pull the best election campaign in its history- meaning they’d have to find a campaign song better than ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ (which alone seems a bit unlikely.) They’d need a monumental shift in public opinion to at least prevent a sentence of a 5-year Tory tyranny of the majority; however, judging from the immediate response from Labour, there’s cause for some optimism. Corbyn seems invigorated, bold even- in response to his opinion polls he said “All I can say is in 2015, almost exactly two years ago, I was given 200/1 as an outside chance.” He seems to believe the election isn’t a foregone conclusion, even if the majority of the country does. But perhaps the election will work in Labour’s favour? Perhaps Conservative voters will view current opinion polls as a reason not to vote, causing a poor turnout and the result won’t be as clear cut? Perhaps ‘Corbynmania’ can revive past the so-called metropolitan elite? Or perhaps, Labour will be decimated and out of office for 20+ years. Whether it truly is a foregone conclusion or not will depend on how the campaign plays out over the next 6 weeks, and a week is a long time in politics.