Well, that was a surprise. Out of nowhere, Theresa May stepped outside the door of Number 10 Downing Street this morning and announced that she was calling for a snap election. And this, after she flatly denied that there would be no general election in Britain until 2020. Only a month ago, she reiterated that now is not the time for a referendum on Scottish independence, yet it seems that it is the right time to shake up an already overtired electorate with yet another major voting session.
When I got the alert of the election announcement, my first port of call was to the big remain groups on Facebook to try and gauge the reaction from the vast amount of people who frequently write there. Along with the usual insults and vitriol slammed against Mrs May, there seemed to be an initial sense of glee across the posts. Most of the comments were also about the Liberal Democrats who, under the leadership of Tim Farron, have been campaigning on a resist Brexit tag since the result was announced. There is a belief that if they can tie up with the Greens, Labour, and possibly the Scottish National Party, there could be a chance of removing the Conservatives from office.
Second chance for remain?
But seriously, is this really a valid hope? Currently, the Tories have a decent mandate with recent polls putting the Conservatives 20 points ahead of Labour, and unless Labour can remove Corbyn, they stand no chance of getting close to causing any kind of impact on the electorate. In fact, there is a real danger that they could lose many existing seats and it has to be said that this election has probably come at the worst time for them.
What happened to resist Brexit?
As for the LibDems, well, despite what you may read on social media, they are not going to come up with the support that they need to affect the Tory majority. Granted, their popularity has indeed increased as a result of Labour and Conservative remain voters turning to them in the hope that they can somehow reverse the Brexit decision, but can they rely on those pledges come the 8th of June? I doubt it, to be honest. Those Labour and Conservative voters tend to be faithful come the day and will be scared of a ultra-liberal government. They may want to stay in Europe, but a lot of them will not want it if it means Britain becoming a more Euro-focused society.
May has no doubt called this election in a bid to remove the hardline Brexiteers on her backbenchers ahead of the difficult negotiations that she and her government will face over the next 12-18 months. It’s most probable that they will eventually become a problem for her if she is forced to make decisions that will compromise the original out is out agenda.
Which begs the question – have we been underestimating Theresa May? Is it possible that she may be actually showing a sense of realism by anticipating that it is inevitable that Britain will have to compromise and end up staying in the single market or even continuing with freedom of movement? Only time will tell, but that should be revealed fairly quickly once the negotiations start.
Some will say that she is moving towards a complete consolidation of power and ensuring that the Tory party will have a massive majority in Westminster for at least the next decade. Could this result in Britain becoming more insular and far right with a possibility that UKIP, now rebels without a cause, will be swallowed up by a conservative superpower?
Sort Brexit after all?
While few outside of the far right will lament the loss of UKIP, in whatever form that takes, it doesn’t make sense to me that May and co. would be happy with an ultra-conservative government. I’m still thinking that she has a plan to keep Britain just inside the EU sphere, hopeful that they can be a new Norway and maybe even a potential candidate for a return to the inner circle in the future. A hard Brexit will mean that everybody loses. And it’s becoming clear that the British government knows this. Playing fair is now on the cards and it’s time to make sure that little or no opposition is in place to make as smooth a transition as possible. Remain is dead – there is no going back, no new referendum and certainly no revoking of Article 50, possible or not. Issues like the Irish border, Scottish independence and what place Britain will have in Europe are now more important than going through a futile fight for something that even the LibDems have accepted is inevitable. It’s now a case of getting the best deal. The Remain campaign needs to accept that getting back into Europe is a long-term goal now.
All of this is just conjecture of course and there is no doubt that there will be winners and losers in this fascinating political drama which wouldn’t sound strange as a script for a TV drama. And in that vein, we’ve hit the mid-season cliff-hanger, waiting eagerly for the next episode in a few months’ time. Some of the principle characters have already been killed off from season one and will the next instalments reveal that some have been playing for the other side all along?
For the outsider, it’s an incredible game of conceal and reveal with the best yet to come.