Earlier today, in an unscheduled speech outside her residence at Downing Street, the Prime Minster called for a snap General Election. Scheduled to take place on the 8th June, the election follows the recent triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, confirming the decision made from the outcome of the EU Referendum last year for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.
It is fair to say that this election has come as a surprise to the British public and indeed the contesting political parties at Westminster. The last General Election took place in 2015, the outcome of which framed the narrative of the last two years of British politics, including the EU Referendum, the resignation of former Prime Minister David Cameron, and the call by the Scottish National Party for a second referendum on Scottish independence. The MPs in the House of Commons will be expected to vote tomorrow on their support for this proposed General Election. As per the Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011, an act preventing the Prime Minister from calling elections without support from MPs, a two-third majority in parliament is needed in support of the election for it to take place.
The reasons behind Theresa May’s call for this election were mentioned in her speech today. Calling for stability and unity, she declared that the outcome of this election will ensure the strongest possible leadership going forward with the Brexit negotiations with the EU. May said of this decision that “If we do not hold a General Election now, [the parties’] political game-playing will continue… and division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit”. The Prime Minister’s call for unity behind the government in the Brexit negotiations, despite the positions of the opposing political parties, was made clear, leading to the dubbing of this election as the ‘Brexit Election’. Owen Jones, a popular critic of the Tories, has said today that this is a guise to push forward an election on the 20-point lead the Tories have over Labour in recent polls, securing her position as Prime Minister until at least 2022.
The decisiveness of the last General Election is set to be increased by its upcoming successor as it will begin from a place much different from that of 2015. Though the campaigns for the upcoming election have not yet been announced, the positions of the parties in recent months shed some light on what their manifestos may include:
- The Conservatives under Theresa May will push for stability and unity behind the Brexit negotiations as their main priority, as mentioned in May’s speech today.
- Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn, has devised new economic plans as of late, as well as highlighting an alternative to the changes to education the Tories have passed since 2010 and promising to secure the NHS in the face of continuing cuts to welfare. With Labour’s position on Brexit being increasingly unclear, Corbyn’s position seems to be that he will fight this election on the issues of the welfare state.
- Tim Farron’s Liberal Democrats are most vocally opposed to Brexit, and they could potentially be the most prominent anti-Leave party during the campaigns. But Farron’s personal views may alienate the electorate further.
- The SNP under Nicola Sturgeon, one of the only leaders remaining from the 2015 General Election, is also opposed to Brexit and its potential impact on Scotland. The SNP has recently called for a second independence referendum, which the government has rejected, meaning that the question of a second referendum is set to be influential in their campaign.
- With UKIP currently having no elected MPs, their main priority will be to receive votes in the aftermath of Brexit and their increasing crisis of identity. Further, the Green Party’s opposition to Brexit and Plaid Cymru’s desire for Wales to stay in the Single Market will have prominent roles in their manifestos.
The main thing the British public can do in the lead-up to the General Election is to register to vote, and to convince friends and family to do the same. This election will be important for the future of Britain, domestically, economically and socially, and individual roles in shaping the outcome are crucial. Please, don’t forget to register to vote soon, and vote on the 8th June.
Words by Caitlin O’Connor