Thursday, 20 April 2017

Thoughts on the snap election announcement

Theresa May made a speech on Tuesday morning announcing a general election for 8 June 2017. Mrs May claimed the reason for calling the snap election is to "guarantee certainty and stability" and allow the government to have a stronger negotiating position with regards to leaving the European Union. Here are my thoughts on the announcement and what it means:

  • Many praised Theresa May for risking a general election however I think it's a stretch to call this a risk. It is anything but that. The Conservatives are polling at twice the numbers of Labour, economic growth is good, and the Conservatives are predicted to win a majority that could be as high as 150 seats.
  • Earlier this year, the government needed to make a U-turn on their policy to raise National Insurance on the self-employed. It would have been a reversal of a 2015 manifesto pledge therefore some Conservatives were threatening to vote against it. A larger Conservative majority in the House of Commons would ensure controversial legislation like this would get passed. The election also allows Theresa May to put forward a manifesto that is truly hers and not be bound to what David Cameron promised in 2015.
  • I think it is a little dodgy holding another general election whilst up to 20 sitting Conservative MPs are under investigation for violations of electoral law. 16 police forces are looking into whether some MPs overspent during the 2015 general election. If found guilty, MPs involved could be imprisoned for one year and barred from Parliament for three. It makes me feel uneasy that those MPs are allowed to run campaigns again whilst there is evidence of their recent monetary mismanagement that they have not yet been penalised for.
  • This election will probably devastate the Labour party when they lose however it will give them a chance to replace Corbyn with a stronger leader who can unite the party, better hold the government to account, and convey a clear message to the public. If the party wants to survive, it can't make the same mistake of electing a leader as un-pragmatic as Corbyn when there is inevitably another leadership election in the summer or else the party may never recover.
  • With some Labour MPs saying that they won't be seeking re-election in June and many more still refusing to unite behind Corbyn, it will be interesting to see the role that the Labour leader will play in the campaign. Many are already speculating that Labour will be trying to avoid a Corbyn-centric campaign.
  • It will also be interesting to see how far policy pledges alone can take a party. Labour appears to be publicising their manifesto as well as they can without the support of the mainstream media. However, concerns over Corbyn's leadership and the disarray of the Parliamentary Labour Party mean that many are calling the party "unelectable" so it is likely that many of those who vote Labour are voting because of manifesto planks alone.
  • Since the announcement of a snap election, Labour has kicked up a fuss about Theresa May going back on her word as she had previously said that she was not going to hold an early general election. Labour are doing a good job at highlighting May’s untrustworthiness but they need to be careful not to go too far or else the public will see them as dwelling on this point rather than focusing on something they can actually do something about. Also, if they moan about the election too much, it further instills the notion that Labour does not have any electoral confidence in themselves.

With around 50 days to go until election day, I look forward to seeing how Labour tries to portray themselves (it is still ambiguous where they stand on Brexit), I hope the Conservatives campaign spending is monitored closely, and I am fascinated to see how voters respond to third parties - especially the Lib Dems and UKIP.