Theresa May’s announcement that she would seek a vote in Parliament to call a snap general election is probably the right move on a number of important levels and especially with regard to the Brexit negotiations. Regardless of the opinion polls which show a huge margin over Labour, if in the end she can increase her majority to 30/40 seats in the House of Commons, she will be far better placed both domestically and in Brussels to deliver a good deal for both sides.
Of course, a landslide victory is unlikely given the partisan nature of politics in the Celtic Nations.
The Balance of Probabilities
Given that the Scots electorally seem slow to change direction, it is likely that the SNP will retain most if not all of their current Westminster seats. Labour does not seem to have recovered its mojo north of the border though the LibDems may be in with a shout in some seats as may the Tories under the leadership of the delightfully “full on” Ruth Davidson. Also the SNP do have a difficult task because having won 56 of the 59 Westminster seats in 2015, down is a more likely direction than up but there is another factor that might play out which is a bit of a potential bear trap for the SNP.
Given that this election is about giving Theresa May a strong mandate in the Brexit negotiations and by a clear majority the Scots voted for ‘Remain’, the SNP vote should be solid however there is a big danger for Nicola and her Crankies. If she “bigs it up” as a prototype vote on Scottish Independence so that she can declare a “mandate from the people”, those Scots who are happy to see SNP MPs as a Scottish awkward squad at Westminster but do not want Scottish Independence, might vote for other parties to deprive her of the chance.
For those in Scotland who don’t want to go through the trauma of another Indyref vote, at least in the near future, a degree of SNP losses in the election might well be considered a good thing especially as clearly the Scottish economy isn’t in the right place for such an adventure.
It is unlikely that there will be much change in Wales nor for that matter in Northern Ireland either especially given the current state of affairs.
So to England
As always it is in England where the issue will be decided. The danger for Theresa May are the chuntering urban classes who mainly voted for Remain, there could be a threat here not from Labour but rather the LibDems. The plus side for her though is that Tim, Tim nice but dim is only slightly more electorally palatable to most voters than Jeremy Corbyn, like Labour, the LibDems desperately need an infusion of new blood and fresh faces to restore their fortunes.
Will UKIP figure largely in this election ? Hard to say, one would hope not or at least, get them to focus on winnable Labour seats rather than splitting the ‘Leave’ vote in marginal seats. I suppose the hope is that being a ‘snap’ ie. short campaign election, it will disadvantage parties like UKIP who tend not to be that well organised.
The Strategic Need
There is always the need for a Prime Minister to have their own mandate, it has a substantial impact on their ‘authority’ both domestically, especially in their own party and also abroad. Probably the biggest mistake Gordon Brown made when he took over from Tony Blair and became Prime Minister, was not to call a similar snap election to get his own mandate, it was widely considered that he would have won and probably with an enhanced majority. If he had done so, he would have had less difficulties with the Lisbon Treaty and been better placed to lead the Country when the financial crisis hit the global economy. More than this, he would have had a longer Labour term in Office to look forward to and would have been able to neuter the challenge of a new young Tory leader in David Cameron.
Theresa May has some difficult challenges ahead so closing off the question of her political ‘legitimacy’ before starting the Brexit negotiations is a positive and strengthening move. Beyond this, it is in the nature of negotiations that there will inevitably be a degree of give and take and currently her small majority leaves her at the mercy of both the hardcore Leavers and Remainers within her own party, diluting both in an increased majority would give her a much freer hand to get the “right deal” for both sides in the negotiations. The point is that the EU negotiators will not scruple to turn her domestic weaknesses against her if they can so best to ensure there are none.
Although sadly less likely, a noticeable reduction in the number of SNP Westminster MPs would also be a big bonus as one more avenue of attack by the EU would be closed down.
Theresa May needs the freedom to negotiate a mutually fair deal without having to listen to shouts of “betrayal” by either swivel eyed “Leavers” or “Remainers”. In simple terms, if the EU had not been so obdurate with David Cameron during his so called re-negotiations and ceded border controls, we wouldn’t even be discussing Brexit but we are where we are so we need to get on with it.
Giving It to Labour
Given the current state of the Labour Party, there will be some who will accuse her of taking an unashamed advantage to grind them down into the dust and that she is being “opportunistic” in calling this election now. The reply to such a charge could easily be “And why not ?” because this is not a ‘gentleman’s game’ of some kind, it is blood raw politics.
However there is possibly greater benefits to be had both for the Labour Party and the Country at large. Our political system demands a government but also a strong opposition and in this respect, Labour is not delivering any kind of coordinated or coherent opposition, it occupies seats in the Commons but fails to deliver any value to the process. The Parliamentary Labour Party has tried to solve its own problems which are centred around Jeremy Corbyn as their leader and totally failed and then seen its party structures coming increasingly under the control of loony lefty do gooders.
These people who have kept Corbyn in the leadership will not give up until they have a significant electoral demonstration of where this road leads and its not a ‘workers paradise’. An electoral result that saw Labour lose a significant number of seats might just start a process of renewal within the Labour Movement and get it back on track to have broad electoral appeal for the electorate at large by the time of the next general election in 2022.
Calling this election carries with it risks but calculated risks is what the job of Prime Minister is all about plus, the next general election is due in 2020 and that too could be used by EU negotiators as ammunition for blackmail over finalizing terms so best, take that one off the table.
I wish her well, she certainly has my vote.