On the 18th of April, just before 11am, Prime Minister Theresa May surprised the nation when she announced her intention to hold a general election on the 8th of June. “The country is coming together, but Westminster is not” were her words and she made clear her reasoning for a 2017 general election being the disunity in Parliament, and a general feeling against Brexit by other political parties. These are the Despatch Box’s writer’s thoughts and feelings on this event, as well as their predictions on what will happen, and what the future holds for the political parties of the UK.
By Rob Cooke-Johnston
So an election in June? There had been murmurs of an impending general election after the EU referendum result, but after this long, most people had just accepted May’s continuous administration and management of a Brexit deal. So what does the Prime Minister gain from holding a general election nine months into her ministry? The answer is power and consolidation.
The opposition is a mess. Labour can barely unify around their leader, let alone properly scrutinise and effectively oppose the policies of the government. Perhaps Mrs May has seen this as the perfect opportunity to smash the opposition and steal their seats? If the polls from YouGov give us any indication on voting intention it’s that Labour is not popular with the public right now; polling at 23% and going down by 2% as opposed to the Conservative 44%, it’s likely that there will be few if any electoral gains for Labour during this snap election. If Mrs May’s decision for a national election were based on consolidation of Tory power, then she most certainly was taking public opinion into consideration.
What’s especially interesting is Jeremy Corbyn’s reaction to the news. He would “welcome” the chance to take on the government and has since voted in favour of a general election in Parliament. There has however been opposition within the Labour party to his pro-election stance, according to the Guardian whispers have begun to circulate of forming a break away from the “suicide party” Labour has become. The Telegraph announced that during last night’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Mr Corbyn failed to even mention the idea of Labour winning the election and instead just gave vague notions of campaign plans rather than an actual strategy. But perhaps we’ll just put this down to the suddenness of the Prime Minister’s announcement.
Another reason for May’s sudden decision to hold a general election is likely the ousting of UKIP from the political sphere. It is no secret that the Conservatives lost significant support to UKIP during the 2015 general elections because of the latter’s anti-EU stance. But all that has changed now! The Conservatives are the party of hard Brexit, even May’s announcement made clear that a pro-Brexit stance is the official one of the Conservative party. Is she hoping that through this election she can regain the support her predecessor, David Cameron lost? Now that Article 50 has been triggered and the Conservatives have subsumed UKIP’s main policy, what reason does UKIP have to exist, and how will Paul Nuttall try to justify his existence during this election period?
Finally, one thought that has occurred to me, is as to whether the Prime Minister will use this election as an excuse to reshuffle her cabinet? In the immediate fallout of Brexit, May arguably had to give the big players of the referendum and subsequent aftermath positions in her cabinet, most likely to prevent division in the party over her ascension to leader over Boris Johnson or Andrea Leadsom. But now she has become the face of the Conservative Party and its support of hard brexit, so will she use this new found position to purge the cabinet of her old rivals for the Conservative leadership?
In regards to the election results, it’s pretty clear that public support lies in the Conservatives and they will most likely win at this rate. It had been suggested, by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, that a viable strategy for stopping a Tory victory would be a “progressive alliance” between themselves, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. But lo and behold, soon after Sturgeon’s announcement, Corbyn managed to blow it for Labour by declining all notion of collaboration with rival parties. With this attitude, Labour could very well lose its position as the official opposition, and give rise to a Conservative dominated Parliament for the foreseeable future. All I can say is, this will be an interesting couple of months ahead of us.
By Yury Pulyakov
I suppose that Theresa May has not masterminded this idea on her own. In fact, there is a dominant faction of senior Tory members who have probably convinced Prime Minister May via Senior Policy Advisers, Spin Doctors and the Cabinet Members that there should be an early election. This is a rational choice, and Theresa May has had a full right to do it. In other words, she is trying to obtain the best things from her leadership to the benefit of the Conservative Party. Surprisingly, not so many people noticed that Britain had had a ‘Natural Party of Government’ since 2015.
Certainly, Tories are going to win a massive landslide. As a mere observer, I cannot say that the party is more productive, successful and appealing in comparison to Labour Party. However, the Labour leadership is the case. Jeremy Corbyn is not a leader that Labour needs right now. For instance, Corbyn is not capable of dealing with such Labour members as Peter Mandelson. In his interview to Jewish Chronicle, Mandelson said that he was working daily to destroy Corbyn’s leadership. I have not had time to find the evidence to back up Mandelson’s claim. Nevertheless, I went through Alastair Campbell and Tom Watson interviews in which they both suggested that Corbyn should change his leadership style. Otherwise, he is risking to lose the party. Hence, Labour weakness is the first moment which motivated Conservative Party to introduce the election bill to the Parliament.
Watching May’s speech was not as spectacular as I thought about that bizarre experience yesterday. PM May said that the election is going to be held because it serves the British national interest. This was probably the only powerful part of the entire speech. On the other hand, we can think about her statement in the Ancient Greek Philosopher Menander’s terms who said that ‘power gives to the words a meaning of truth’. Furthermore, the fact that May refused to participate in the debates showed that Conservative leaders prefer to use different platforms to communicate with their electorate. For instance, David Cameron invited ‘The Sun’ to film his Downing Street daily routine several weeks before the 2015 General Election. Likewise, Theresa May would not struggle to interact with the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ because she can play around her personal traits that will also pay off.
Bernard Shaw said that ‘An Election is a moral horror; a mud bath for every soul concerned in it’. Nonetheless, this phrase is no longer relevant because not so many people are interested in politics today. I highly doubt that the turnout rates will be high because the deadline to register to vote ends on May 22. In effect, the updated Tory and Labour manifestos will be just an update to the 2015 Manifestos because there is not so much left. So, I will be glad to observe the new British election ‘horse-race’.
By Thomas Sherlock
You could probably hear the collective scream of politics followers everywhere today.
No-one saw this coming. Theresa May had denied again and again she would do this. But low and behold she did. Nicola Sturgeon was certainly correct in branding this one of most dramatic u-turns in political history.
Her official line is that she seeks a mandate for Brexit and ‘certainty’ and ‘stability’ for the country, two adjectives I’ve never associated with an election campaign. Certainly it seems far more likely she was seduced by the dramatic polls placing the Tories a solid 20% over Labour. She has nothing to lose, everything to gain-or so it seems.
So what happens now? Tomorrow she will put this before Parliament and if two-thirds of MPs vote in favour the Fixed Term Parliaments Act is suspended and an election will be held. Failing that she could either seek a Vote of No Confidence or simply outright repeal the bill (and with the Tory majority in the Commons, such a repeal would be an almost certainty). Jeremy Corbyn has come out in favour of such a contest, saying he welcomes the opportunity, so the question is whether Labour MPs will follow his lead.
In all likelihood an election is assured. So what does this bring? Brexit negotiations will no doubt stall during the campaign, but with German elections later this year it was unlikely much was going to be achieved regarding Brexit this year anyway. Safe to say, politically, this announcement was like a stick of dynamite. The Green Party is already pushing for inclusive leaders debates, the SNP were quick to attack Tory policies, the Liberal Democrats are already making capital on the hard Brexit/soft Brexit arguments, and have received an influx of new members, and Labour is all over the place. Politics is never static, and never one to be taken for granted. This announcement is certainly testament to that.
I think I speak for all writers of The Despatch Box in urging all our readers to register to vote. Regardless of your political leaning your opinion matters.
By Malick Doucoure
12 days ago, I woke up to news reports that indicated the Trump Administration had authorised air strikes against Assad. I was surprised.
9 days ago, I woke up to news reports that indicated the People’s Republic of China had sent 150,000 troops to North Korea. I was surprised.
A few days ago, I woke up to news reports that indicated the government of North Korea had launched yet another missile test in defiance of the West and US Sanctions. I was surprised.
Yesterday morning, however, I woke up to something else. I woke up to a political game changer, to something that will have an impact on history that would be impossible to understate. Theresa May’s calling of a general election in June can and according to most polls, will change the political landscape of this nation, as well as delaying my summer travelling plans. General Elections are usually about ideology, about a clash of manifestos, but Brexit will be at the forefront of everybody’s minds when we all ‘Pokémon Go’ to the polls on the 8th June. It goes without saying that a win for the Conservative party would provide more than enough of a justification for May to proceed with Hard Brexit.
Assuming the polls are right, we will also witness the electoral routing of the Labour party, with key marginal seats likely to fall into Conservative hands. As a result of this, Corbyn and his followers’ attempt to shift the party leftwards will be blamed and a thus a return to the party’s previous Blairite/Brownite state of affairs would be inevitable. The Liberal Democrats are set to gain seats, regardless of whether the polls are correct or not, as they have cleverly positioned themselves as the only major pro-remain party, a stance that Ideally the Labour Party should’ve taken; considering the fact that some polls have indicated the nation would vote 59% in favour of remain if a second referendum were to take place.
As a member of the Labour Party, I cannot help but look at the General Election and the events that could transpire with a frown on my face. The only positive I can take from May’s election is that with her Hard Brexit stance, any sensible reason for a sensible human being to vote for UKIP has now disappeared, so I expect UKIP to at least fall with us. If the lack of sensible reasons to vote for UKIP isn’t enough to turn potential UKIP voters away, then Paul Nuttall’s sub-par – and that’s at best – leadership would seal the deal. Unfortunately, the fact that UKIP’s demise is the ONLY positive that a labour voter can take from the announcement of a general election, illustrates the dire situation the Labour Party has found itself in.
With analysis suggesting that Brexit negotiations would not have finished before the 2020 elections, and with the belief that the Conservatives would have been crippled by a “Brexit Backlash” as the population slowly realises how detrimental Brexit would be for us (support for remain in a second referendum has been steadily increasing over the past weeks and is projected to continue doing so), Theresa May is cashing in early before the storm by calling a general election. I may not agree with her ideologically but with her latest action, the least I can do is acknowledge and respect her political genius.
By Vlad Ivlev
Theresa May has announced a snap general election, happening on the 8th of June. Despite the election having been scheduled for 2020 due to the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, Theresa May knows very well that she will get that two thirds of MP’s support relatively easily, seeing as the other parties seek to pounce on the Tories at every opportunity. However, that doesn’t say much for her motives. At first glance, it is very obvious that such a desperate move is a reaction to the Conservative Party’s failure at negotiating early trade deals with the EU. May will use the early trade deals as a counteract to Scotland’s referendum of independence, forcing the Scottish people into an undesirable situation which will complicate their integration into the EU. However, it seems that May’s party is shooting themselves in the leg, rejecting to pay the divorce bill the EU has set as an ultimatum, as well as childishly threatening the EU. The British Prime Minister said that “No deal is better than a bad deal”, of course hiding the fact that Britain is five times more dependent on exports to the EU and not the other way around. “Threats are never a good instrument in a negotiation and empty threats are even poorer instruments in a negotiation” said a senior EU official. However, one of the Tories’ more prevalent motives, one that seems to be never discussed in the Brexit debate, is their obsession with austerity and de-regulation. The conservative party wouldn’t be so determined to follow up on their promises for Brexit, if the only up-side was limiting immigration. Brexit, even though the conservative party cleverly disguises it, is a blessing for hard-right neo-conservative interests. The forced regulation and legislation of the EU single-market is abominable to the conservative. Brexit is their only chance to de-regulate the market further, applying neo-con tax cuts (something they have been promising for a while) and further aligning themselves with the interests of their donors. The snap general election, the way that SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon puts it, is “one of the most extraordinary U-turns in recent political history… The Tories see a chance to move the UK to the right, force through a hard Brexit and impose deeper cuts… She is clearly betting that the Tories can win a bigger majority in England given the utter disarray in the Labour Party.” It is very easy for Laborites and LibDems to see this as a nationalistic move to further control immigration, but in reality, May is taking a gamble in the name of her special-interests, and seeing as the other parties are incompetent, the Prime Minister will definitely get what she wants.
By Gavin Davies
Elizabeth May has announced a snap election, hoping to catch the populous at a high point in the government favorability. May’s argument is that there must be popular support behind the government that will be charged with negotiating Brexit, and a means of legitimising her own place in the Tory party leadership. However, the real question is whether voters will simply see this as a purely political move rather than what is best for the country. Politically, it is the shrewd thing to do to cement power in uncertain times; not enough has happened with Brexit to make people that voted exit annoyed, they will most likely gain UKIP voters as they have taken on that party’s core position, the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to take enough from the left and right to be a threat, and Labour is at its most divided – between Labour party members, Labour MPs, and the array of potential Labour voters.
That all said, what is the most likely election result, and what will it mean?
The most likely result is a Tory win, though most likely not by any sweeping increase in seats. This will be because of the Lib Dems picking up more seats, but not enough to upset the left-right balance, and the suppressed Labour turn out due to party divisions and general uncertainty; what would happen if Labour and Lib Dems got enough seats to share power and decided to stop Brexit? Would it be possible? If not, what terms would they try and negotiate? Such a situation is convoluted at best, and makes it a harder cause to rally behind.
But if the Tories win, we will be assured a “hard” Brexit strategy, and generally a continuation of the Cameron government’s conservative policies at home. What we also may be assured, however, is a Scottish referendum, and political upheaval in Northern Ireland. This is the key factor that could upend what seems to be a sure thing for the Tories; how much are people worried about keeping the UK united? Were the demands from independence from the EU also an implicit demand for an independent England? This line of argument is the greatest tool the Lib Dems, SNP, Irish parties, and Labour have in changing the tide of isolationist rhetoric, and push for the benefits of inclusion and unity. Whether or not that will sell in the current political climate, and if pro-EU parties can also put forward of an idea of how they would negotiate if they did win, is the essential question.
Featured image from the Daily Express