So, it turns out that Theresa May is just like every other politician after all – saying one thing and doing another. After months of staring into camera lenses, vowing not to call an early General Election, she walked out into Downing Street this morning and said that, ‘reluctantly’, she now thought it would be terrible not to.
Perhaps it won’t matter once she’s crushed Jeremy Corbyn in the upcoming election but she is taking a calculated risk that there won’t be permanent damage to her ‘straight talking’ brand. Just last month Downing Street said that a snap election was ‘not going to happen’, adding ‘It’s not something she plans to do or wishes to do’. There was also a curiously dark undertone to some of the May statement. In one key passage Mrs May seemed to take significant umbrage at the very notion of Parliamentary opposition: “At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division.
The country is coming together, but Westminster is not. In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the final agreement we reach with the European Union. The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill. The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union. And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.”
As many people have pointed out, May seemed to be railing at the core principles of an adversarial political system. And given the swipe against ‘unelected’ Peers, I for one am looking forward to the Conservative manifesto commitment to an elected second chamber. We also go into a General Election with no functioning Northern Ireland executive and a Scottish Government intent on using it to push for a further weakening of the Union.
But the truth is this is all cover for what is essentially a purely political calculation. Labour is in freefall, the Brexit negotiation will be one of the most challenging things ever undertaken by the Government and their current majority is slim. Better to bank that three-figure majority now and then deal with the external difficulties through a full five-year Parliament.
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