Theresa May’s Snap General Election: The Mother of All U-Turns

Theresa May ruled out an early snap general election on the Andrew Marr show on 4 September 2016 on the grounds that the country needed stability.I think the next election will be in 2020, she said. Fast-forward to 18 April 2017, explaining her decision to hold a general election on 8 June 2017, she said:

Since I became Prime Minister I have said there should be no election until 2020 but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take,

Is it any wonder, then, that the public trust in politicians is rock bottom? In another phrase she used to justify an early general election, the Prime Minister said: “The country is coming together but Westminster is not”. How so, Prime Minister? The 48% who voted remain in the EU referendum haven’t suddenly changed their minds! The country is divided and parliament is reflecting the confusion and the uncertainty of the country.

One is left with the inescapable conclusion that the decision to hold an early general election is in the interest of the Conservative party and not that of the country. Having a substantial lead in the polls over Labour, Theresa May believes that all opposition to her extreme Brexit will be crushed by this cynical decision. Additionally, going to the electorate before the muck of Brexit hits the fan is an added advantage.

We have been here before. The EU referendum was held in the interest of the Conservative party to silence the Brexiteers within, and to thwart UKIP’s advance at the expense of the Tories. The Cameron government never expected the leave campaign to win.

They were wrong. Is this another miscalculation by Cameron’s successor, Theresa May? Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, believes so, and she may well be right.

And what of fixed-term parliaments? The idea here is to remove the substantial advantage it gives the government to hold the election at a time of its choosing within the five year period.. It now turns out to be not worth the paper it is written on.

Opposition parties dare not oppose the government if it chooses to hold an early snap general election for fear of being accused of cowardice in front of the electorate. This is the case now and the government duly got its way to hold a general election on 8 June 2017.

There is a strong case for a second referendum on EU membership as demanded by the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, that can be put as follows:  if people had known that: (a) almost all fellow Europeans already in Britain would continue to reside in the UK; (b) immigration would only be cut by 15%; and (c) there would be no extra £350 million a week for the NHS, would a majority have voted for Brexit?

Here is the thing. If Theresa May can change her mind so spectacularly within months about the merits and demerits of an early general election, then we must give the people the opportunity to change their minds once the terms of Brexit are concluded. Offer a second referendum, and let the people decide.

Adnan Al-Daini (PhD, Birmingham University, UK) is a retired University Engineering lecturer. He is a British citizen born in Iraq. He writes regularly on issues of social justice and the Middle East. Read other articles by Adnan.