Theresa May has, after much humming and hawing, goading and guffawing during PMQs, and denying any idea of a general election…has called a general election for June 8.
There had been murmurings of a snap election circling some podcasts and around the Internet over the past couple of weeks, but nothing outstanding amongst the other political pundits who mused over the idea of having more votes to talk about.
As Brenda said to Jon Kay when he asked about the election: “You’re joking. Not another one!” Yes, Brenda, it is true. We are truly sorry.
Theresa May said her decision was to unite parliament, citing divisions amongst the parties of Westminster while the country was united – apparently.
This division, May said, was “political game playing”, arguing it would damage the negotiations with the European Union. “Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit, and will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country”.
It means Theresa May is looking for “strong and stable leadership”, and do away with the opposition who want to prevent “me from getting the job done”.
It isn’t all rammed through yet, though. The vote requires a two-thirds majority in the Commons for the election to be held.
In some ways, May’s decision appears sound: To get a deal on Brexit, she should allay concerns people have over her legitimacy. Maybe it was that walking holiday that gave her such clarity of thought.
Or perhaps not. There is a sinister undertone to May’s decision. The Conservatives currently lead the polls by 21 points. Predictions suggest she will get the Conservatives up to 400 seats, with Labour crushed down to just 162.
And when I say “crushed”, I mean crushed. May’s aim is to literally crush the opposition to the Tory government. Jeremy Corbyn has already shown the country exhibits a poor show for an opposition anyway, but this election will obliterate it completely.
Maybe Mrs Not-So-Maybe-Anymore has been taking leafs out of President Erdogan’s book, because her actions make her look as if she is intending to annihilate those who hold the government to account on behalf of the 48% who voted Remain.
That brings me to a second point: Is May acting in a ‘presidential’ manner? Despite talking much of seats and majorities, May also hit home the need for “strong leadership”, that it is her negotiations with the EU, that she will get the job done.
Although the position of the prime minister is a crucial one, she is the leader of a government, not a president. It would be foolish to assume this election is not intended to be a validation of her ability to lead the country.
Despite her also talking about the economy post-Article 50 not being as bad as we all thought – Brexit has not happened yet. The ramifications of Brexit will be hard to measure until we leave the EU; and if the reaction of the economy after May’s announcement is anything to go by, we might be in for a rollercoaster ride.
Where does this leave some of the other parties then? Aside from Labour, what of the SNP, Lib Dems and Ukip?
The SNP would be right to assume they will lose seats this time around, even if it is a handful. Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives are performing well: She is popular, they opposed Brexit, and are polling better than Labour in many councils.
The buzz after the independence referendum has died a little, and much consternation exists over what appears to be a phantom indyref2 – almost like Brown’s phantom general election of 2007.
The Liberal Democrats might seek to improve their lowly position of the past two years, with Farron arguing they are performing well in local polling and council by-elections. It is unlikely they will worsen their position at the very least.
Ukip, on the other hand, are in a tight spot. Carsewell is gone, Reckless is gone, but Farage is (somehow) clinging on in some way. Still, whether Farage runs to become an MP or not, Ukip will either be tossed by the wayside or seen as the Big Brother over Brexit negotiations.
Will May hold her word? Some hardliners may fear it, and fear the power she will hold with 400 seats.
Even the Labour landslide of 1997 garnered them just 18 seats more than what some believe Theresa May will scoop.
Margaret Thatcher’s highest seat takings rose to 397 – 400 would be an incredible feat.
The upcoming council elections will act as a perfect barometer for May’s election endeavours, but only if she clears the legislative hurdles ahead of her in the next few days.