British PM Seizes Chance to Smash All Opposition, Guarantee Brexit
LONDON—In truth, anything else would have been cowardice.
But for a woman who wants us to believe she is forged from the same metal as Margaret Thatcher, a snap election was a no-brainer.
Theresa May will be elected Britain’s prime minister in a landslide on June 8th.
She became PM by default last year in the tumultuous days after the Brexit vote and David Cameron’s resignation. Her Conservative challengers collapsed and she was ushered into the top job unopposed and unelected.
That democratic deficit would have weighed more and more heavily as Britain lurched through the damaging process of extricating itself from the European Union before the scheduled election in 2020. With a fragile majority in the House of Commons, she could even have faced a revolt by moderates in her own party over the terms of the Brexit deal.
The current shambolic state of the Labour Party now gives her an unprecedented opportunity to wipe out the opposition in a landslide and secure a mandate to negotiate Brexit on her own terms.
Despite opposing Britain’s exit from the union during the referendum campaign, May has embraced the result and wants to redraw Britain as a fiercely independent nation that is beholden to no one; whether that be trading partners, economic unions, or universal human-rights laws.
Much of the political elite in Westminster remains nervous about Brexit, and the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party have won plaudits for their vocal criticism of May’s rush to cut off European ties.
“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,” said May, speaking from a podium outside No. 10 Downing Street. “Our opponents believe because the government’s majority is so small that our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change. They are wrong.”
The lady wants you to know: She is not for turning.
Recent policy reversals caused by a Commons working majority of just 17 had begun to undermine that position. Once she has finished wiping the floor with Jeremy Corbyn and sent scores of Labour Members of Parliament to join the unemployment line in June, she won’t have to turn for anyone.
Corbyn limply welcomed May’s announcement. He’s in that rare position of being an opposition leader who doesn’t want an election, but of course he can’t say that out loud.
“In the last couple of weeks, Labour has set out policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country. We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain,” he said.
Leaving aside the futility of claiming to a skeptical public that you are “credible,” Corbyn faces a stunning deficit in the opinion polls. In a head-to-head choice between May and Corbyn, the hard-left Labour leader scored just 14 percent in a poll over the weekend. He didn’t even get a majority among Labour voters.
He has just six weeks to persuade Britons they should change their minds.
Corbyn’s position is further stymied by Labour’s uncertainty in dealing with the fallout from Brexit. The party has said it accepts the result of the referendum but it’s torn over how to push for more favorable terms in a negotiation.
The Liberal Democrats, who were reduced to a rump of just eight MPs in the 2015 election, have seized the opportunity to become the anti-Brexit party.
They will contest this election by telling 48 percent of voters who voted Remain in the referendum this is “your chance to change the direction of your country.”
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “If you want to avoid a disastrous ‘hard Brexit.’ If you want to keep Britain in the single market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance.”
May telephoned Queen Elizabeth on Monday to inform her that she would announce her intension to hold an early election. Under the fixed terms parliament act that was passed by David Cameron in 2011, elections were supposed to be held every five years—ending the prime minister’s traditional prerogative to call an election whenever it best suited him or her.
That supposedly historic change lasted just six years, as May paved the way for an election by asking opposition parties to vote for a dissolution of parliament.
Cameron said the rejection of his fixed terms, and calling of the election was “brave—and right.”
For May, it is a gamble with no chance of defeat. That’s not bravery, it’s common sense.