Photo Source: TheSun.Co.UK
Harsh Tiwari, Fiscal Policy Contributor
Theresa May has released a statement announcing snap general elections on June 8th, 2017 ( see video here). Providing a justification for her decision, May stated that “The country is coming together but Westminster is not." The decision comes as a surprise to many, and not without good reason. May, as she stipulated in today’s statement, had not considered calling a general election until 2020 and her move raises many important questions. Why has May suddenly decided to consolidate her mandate (or for that matter abandon it) in the wake of the uncertainty that Brexit has caused? Is May’s decision to let the British people decide who governs them during the Brexit process a prudent and wise one?
The first question has an answer which can be found without excessive digging into May’s words. British politicians are circumlocutory, but May’s statement in my opinion has unsurprising clarity. Clarity which indicates one simple fact- Britain and May find themselves very ill-equipped to deal with the pressures of Brexit, they truly need Westminster to come together.
The Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 provides that Parliamentary General elections may be called for, before the completion of a 5 year term, only if two-thirds of the MP’s are in favour of it. I see no reason to believe that May has made this announcement without the assurance that it shall be approved and if May knows that her announcement will be approved then I see no reason to believe that she really made this decision.
Theresa May’s premiership of the country has been doubted from the moment it began. May was put in charge of Brexit negotiations after being a member of the Bremain camp. She was never a favourite for the post of the PM after Cameron’s negotiations. She only took the job when the present Foreign Secretary (and Trump look-a-like) Boris Johnson relinquished his bid for the post. In other words, she was given the post of PM without truly wanting it and without having the vision to steer Britain in the new direction that the latter had taken. May was incoherent in spelling out her plan for Brexit and was antithetical to the label of Thatcher 2.0 put on her. The Back-bench MP’s of the Conservative Party (i.e. those not in government) to which May belongs, were growing irritated with her lack of strong leadership, clear direction, and consequent blemishes to the image of the Conservative Party. May tried to bypass the need to take Parliament’s permission for Brexit and could only be stopped from doing so by the UK Supreme Court (in the case of Miller v Secretary of State for exiting the EU). It is, thus, not inconceivable to see why Conservative MPs might have forced May’s hand to re-seek a mandate and firmly establish her credentials as the PM of the UK. Moreover, as Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC, writes:
“Dealing day-to-day with a small majority has given Conservative backbenchers significant power to force the government to back down on a variety of issues. Election campaigns can be deeply unpredictable but opinion polls suggest a Tory [i.e. Conservative] majority that would make that problem disappear.”
Thus, May’s announcement could be due to a combination of her party’s complaints against her and her own need to get a decisive mandate that will prevent roadblocks from occurring in the path of her Brexit plans.
As far as the second question is concerned, May’s decision (or her party’s), in my humble opinion is imprudent and unwise. There are a variety of reasons why that is the case. Brexit has just been triggered and it requires careful and detailed negotiations to be carried out for a pro-Britain deal to be hammered out between London and Brussels. Moreover, there is also the issue of the repeal of and replacement of the EU law which would cease to be good law in the UK. Alongside Brexit negotiations there were other potential opportunities that Britain had begun to explore-such as trade deals with India and China. The American election meant that May was dealing with Trump and her US state visit had accomplished very little. Furthermore, there was the growing threat of another Scottish referendum which will be bolstered by this call for an election. In short, there were too many problems that May had to handle and her call for elections is more than a step away from solving them. The call for general elections means that the Tory party will be dedicating its time and energy to winning the polls whilst facing a reinvigorated Labour Party instead of concentrating on Brexit. The uncertainty the election will create will cause losses in business as markets will become paranoid of a Labour victory and government inaction on Brexit negotiations. If, almighty forbid, Jeremy Corbyn wins the election then all hell shall break loose. It is not unreasonable to say that UK will potentially become a socialist state with Scotland outside its borders under Mr. Corbyn. The call for general elections is an unwise one, both in terms of politics and policy. It seems May really does not understand that her actions and words are fundamentally at odds with each other when she states that “Britain [needs] certainty, stability, and strong leadership” whilst announcing snap general elections.
Concluding, it must be caveated that the full consequences of May’s decision are yet to be seen and the reasons behind it require much deeper exploration than a day allows. Two things, however, are certain, Theresa May has made too many tea-drinkers break their teacups with her decision this morning, and British politicians seem to truly think that Brexit is breakfast.
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