The Prime Minister said she “reluctantly” concluded that a General Election on 8 June is the right thing to do.
Just how reluctant a PM can be with a 21-point poll lead is up for debate, but having previously insisted that she wouldn’t go to the country, May now says it is the only way to “guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead” in the face of “political game playing” by Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and unelected Lords – all of whom she accuses of seeking to frustrate Brexit in various ways.
May wants a fresh mandate and believes, rightly, that a newly elected, majority Tory government will make it harder for her political opponents (at home and abroad) to chip away at her authority during the Brexit negotiations.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron senses an opportunity to stand on an “anti hard-Brexit” platform, and his party will likely gain a number of new MPs. As for Labour, Jeremy Corbyn faces a devastating defeat followed by yet more blood-letting and in-fighting for his party.
He says he “welcomes the Prime Minister’s decision” but his confidence cannot be high: the latest polls put Labour on just 23 per cent. The last time Labour polled so low on the eve of an election, Margaret Thatcher bagged a majority of 144.
Beyond Brexit, May can also now respond to those who claim her domestic policy agenda (think grammar schools) lacks a mandate.
A new manifesto will be presented and in all likelihood, May will secure her place in Downing St for a further five years. The timetable is tight: by the end of June a new government will be picking up the Brexit negotiations without too much time having been lost.
The PM’s statement in Downing St referred to the positive economic backdrop, citing strong growth and robust consumer confidence. May’s calculation is that these benign conditions will remain in place at least until polling day.
Whatever happens after then, she’ll likely have a fresh mandate and a strong majority with which to face it.
She’s made the right decision. The tasks ahead of her, domestically and with regards to Brexit, are enormous and complex – but her hand will be strengthened by a General Election victory.