At 11:15am this morning, Theresa May announced a surprise general election, to be held on June 8. Despite making promises as recently as last month stating she would never hold a snap election, the Prime Minister has now subjected the country to six weeks of tense decision making. There’s no doubting this is a tactical move.
In a speech on the steps of Downing Street, May stated the election was a necessary step in order to “secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond”. A surprise election gives May a ticket to destroy the opposition, manipulate voters, annihilate the Remain camp and, most importantly, cement a Tory leadership for the foreseeable future.
The obvious issue with calling a general election so soon is that this unequally benefits the Conservatives. With a 21 point lead in voting intentions over Labour, there is no chance of any opposing party drastically changing those figures within six weeks. A year into Conservative government leaves little opportunity for voters to witness the long-term effects of policy and most middle-ground people will have no desire to risk a change – especially when they have barely understood what this change could be. Additionally, general elections usually involve months of campaigning and television debates in order to raise awareness regarding each party’s policies but May is deliberately leaving the public ignorant.
Labour has taken an increasingly heavy beating since May took office. With only a 23% support rating, and the lowest levels of voter support since Gordon Brown in 2009, many things have been blamed for these dwindling figures – such as Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, internal divisions within the party and the media’s ruthless coverage of both – but what is clear is that Labour is at its weakest in years. Ultimately, the timing of a general election could not be more perfect for May; Labour have no hope of undoing the damage of the last year. Instead, this could be the final bullet that sees them off.
Without a powerful resistance to hold the Conservatives accountable during the campaigning, the party is left susceptible to manipulating voters, as has been done in the past. As we saw with Brexit, politicians love to emotionally blackmail voters. Both the Conservatives and UKIP abused the confusions and fears of the public with threats over immigration and the NHS’ future. We all remember the £350m NHS bus campaign despite Farage’s best efforts to erase any trace of it from our consciousness. Who knows what the Conservatives will use as ammunition in order to support their leadership this time round? Without a powerful body to undermine them, they will increasingly define the political debate.
All of these points mean this general election increasingly resembles a move to cement May’s position. When she most likely wins, she will have removed the last voice of Britain’s Remain camp. Having been seen to give the country the chance to argue against Brexit and her leadership, she will have finally quashed criticisms against her being an unelected leader of the country whilst simultaneously undermining those still arguing against her. This faux-democratic move is just that: a show, but a strategic one that works to ridicule whilst giving her the complete power to follow Brexit in whatever way she pleases. We will be forced to welcome a new layer of tyranny to the British prime minister’s leadership; she will no longer have to listen to Remainers or left-wing voters, she “gave them a chance” after all.
British politics resembles a game of poker. Every party is all in, but May holds the best hand. But whilst the odds are against the other parties, we still need to fight. What else can we do but put all our efforts into stopping this from becoming a reality? This is the only thing those before us have ever done in times of crisis.