London, April 18
Facing constant carping from the opposition – including the demand for another independence referendum in Scotland – Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday called a mid-term election on June 8 as opinion polls saw the ruling Conservatives winning again.
May will move a motion in the House of Commons on Wednesday to hold the election, as stipulated in the Fixed Term Parliament Act of 2011. It will need to be passed by two-thirds majority, which is likely given that the Labour Party favours a mid-term election.
May’s surprise decision announced outside 10, Downing Street sent the pound soaring, as many saw it as an opportunity to reverse the vote to leave the European Union. But Brexiteers believe the election outcome will set at rest the daily commentaries of criticism.
The Conservative Party led by David Cameron won a majority in the May 2015 polls. He resigned after Britain voted to leave the European Union in the June 23 referendum last year. He was succeeded by May, who some saw as an unelected prime minister.
May said: “It was with reluctance that I decided the country needs this election, but it is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond.”
She referred to the constant criticism her government faced inside and outside Westminster. If the election were not held, she said, “political game-playing” will continue, affecting the Brexit talks. “So I have a simple challenge to the opposition parties, you have criticised the government’s vision for Brexit, you have challenged our objectives, you have threatened to block the legislation we put before Parliament,” she said.
“This is your moment to show you mean it, to show you are not opposing the government for the sake of it, to show that you do not treat politics as a game. Let us tomorrow vote for an election, let us put forward our plans for Brexit and our alternative programmes for government and then let the people decide.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed May’s announcement, while Nicola Sturgeon of the ruling Scottish National Party in Scotland called it an “extraordinary U-turn” after the prime minister had previously ruled out a mid-term election. “She is clearly betting that the Tories can win a bigger majority in England given the utter disarray in the Labour Party…In terms of Scotland, this move is a huge political miscalculation by the prime minister,” Sturgeon said. “It will once again give people the opportunity to reject the Tories’ narrow, divisive agenda, as well as reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists for giving the people of Scotland a choice on their future,” she added.
May’s announcement sent Westminster in a tizzy, with some Labour MPs continuing to doubt whether the party can win under Corbyn’s leadership. But they hoped those who now regretted voting to leave the EU would get another opportunity, which would help Labour.
European Council president Donald Tusk spoke to May on phone after the announcement, and described it as a “good phone call”. He previously issued a tweet that many found intriguing in London: “It was Hitchcock who directed Brexit: first an earthquake and the tension rises.”
London, April 18