The United Kingdom will elect a new government on June 8. Prime Minister Teresa May surprised the nation this morning by announcing what is know as a snap election. The last one was held as recently as 2015.
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, elections are supposed to take place each five years but a provision allows a PM to override it and call a snap election if t passes a 2/3 vote in the House of Commons. With Labour and the Liberal Democrats already signifying their approval, although there is a nascent (but so far insignificant) backbench Labour movement to refuse it. Wednesday’s vote will trigger a general election in the second week of June.
The election will take place in the backdrop of Brexit. The UK Government is about to embark on negotiations with the EU, having triggered its departure from the EU by invoking Article 50 within the last month.
Prime Minister May claims that she needs a fresh mandate to backs her government in the negotiations. The current Conservative government has just 330 MPs, giving the party its working majority of 17. This makes her prone to rebellions from either side of her party, a pro-Europe moderate wing and a virulently anti-EU right wing, who wish to see no compromise on Brexit
Labour has 229 seats, the Scottish National Party 56, Lib Dems 8 and Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nationalist Party) has 3. Northern Irish parties and independents hold the remaining seats, in a 650 strong Commons.
This morning Prime Minster May addressed the media outside 10 Downing Street. She urged the nation to get behind her in those negotiations, citing the opposition of the other parties:
“Labour have threatened to vote against the final agreement we reach with the European Union, the Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill, the SNP say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union and unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.”
However, observers note that the massive lead her party has in all the current opinion polls may have been the most important factor. In the latest poll, the Conservatives hold a massive lead over Labour which stands at a historical low of 23%. The opportunity for May to decimate the Labour Party, led by the left-wing Jeremy Corbyn, may have been too much to resist.
We’ll be looking at the possibilities for individual parties over the next period starting with the governing Conservative Party tomorrow.