British Prime Minister Theresa May dumbfounded the country when she called for snap elections on June 8th. In a dramatic turn of events, the prime minister claimed she hesitantly decided to let the country go to the polls in only 51 days’ time.
“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” she stated in an unscheduled appearance outside the residence of the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street also saying that she had only just come to the conclusion. If she wins this election, it could provide more leeway in the upcoming negotiations with the European Union.
This comes less than a month after the PM’s official spokesman categorically ruled out suggestions for an early election claiming that in a statement, it simply was not going to happen. However, the decision is complicated a bit by the Fixed Term Parliament Act which was passed by the Coalition Government and states that the next election is not to be held until May 2020.
In order to overcome this law, the Prime Minister is going to move for a motion in the House of Commons calling for an election on June 8th.
Just before she assumed the role of prime minister from her predecessor, David Cameron, she said in a speech which launched her bid, there would be no early elections. Then in her first major interview after taking the oath of office, she told the Andrew Marr Show, this past September, that the country needed a period of stability, especially after the Brexit vote.
The contradiction continues as illustrated in her 2016 Christmas message where she strongly hinted that an election was not on the agenda for calling for unity.
“I’m not going to be calling a snap election. I’ve been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability, to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020.”
It could be that calling for an early vote, Theresa May is betting the voters are going to give the conservative party, which holds a slim majority of 330 seats in the House of Commons, a stronger mandate.
The opposition Labor Party is disorganized under the hard left, Jeremy Corbyn who seems to be under siege. In the last election in 2015, the Scottish National Party that supports Scottish independence grabbed a number of labor seats and then became the third largest party in Parliament.
Options for the PM
Those supporting the move for an early election have urged her to consider the experience of one of her predecessor’s Gordon Brown, who was from the Labor Party. Despite the polls showing the labor party was going to be triumphant, Mr. Brown declined to call a general election.
His popularity had suffered greatly on account of the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis. After more than a decade in power, the labor party lost the election in 2010 to a coalition that was led by David Cameron and the conservative party. This coalition which was inclusive of a small centrist party which is the Liberal Democrats passed laws which made it hard to call for early elections.
As such, Theresa May has three options. She can decide to repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act and try to get a majority vote in both houses of Parliament. She may also call for a vote of no confidence in her own government and this would only need a majority in the House of Commons though this would be a bit extreme. Lastly, two-thirds of the Commons could vote to call for an early election which would need the support of the Labour Party.
Either way, Theresa May has a hard road ahead in trying to get the call for elections to stand.