With early election PM May wants a strong mandate for Brexit. Will it work?

PM Theresa May calls early election on June 8. Why now, what does it mean? She seeks a strong mandate for Brexit negotiation but do you think she is going to get one? Read few comments.

PM Theresa May. Credit: https://www.gov.uk

Robin Pettitt, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Kingston University

I suspect her MPs have been looking at the polls, and been begging for an early election, and she finally gave in. The reasons she gave sounds plausible, but I do not think anyone is in any doubt that this is to make use of their huge lead over Labour. It is also likely that Conservative strategists have been worried about damage to their polls when the sheer scale of the Brexit negotiation task becomes clear to voters. This way they will have until 2022 to deal with any damage from Brexit.

It is as certain as anything can be in political prediction that the Conservatives will cruise to an easy win, and that Labour will be crushed. No doubt May will present this as endorsing her Brexit line. However, the real reason for the victory is probably more about the weakness of the Labour leadership. However, May has explicitly made this about Brexit, so will present their victory as being about that. The really interesting question is how the Liberal Democrats will do. They will almost certainly campaign on an anti-Brexit platform, and we will have to see how that goes down. If they do well, that could be the counter argument to May’s ‘we won because we will deliver Brexit’.

Fran Amery, Lecturer in British Politics, University of Bath

You’ve already answered your first question – she seeks a mandate for the Brexit negotiation now that Article 50 has been triggered. She will be hoping that with Labour’s decline in the polls, the Conservatives will be returned to government with a larger majority. This would give May the appearance of a mandate at least – but in reality, any victory will be less a mandate for the Conservative Party and more a sign of Labour’s collapse. But it would also ensure more stability for May’s government should any Conservative backbenchers grow unhappy with how EU negotiations are progressing (which they may well).

As to whether she will get her mandate: it looks likely, given current polling, but a lot can change over the course of an election campaign. There’s a slim chance that a pro-Remain coalition could spring up to successfully contest the election. But they will have a lot of organising to do in a short space of time, and will have to contend with the huge wounds in the Labour Party.

Christian SchweigerVisiting Professor Comparative European Governance Systems, Technische Universität Chemnitz

I think her decision is an attempt to legitimise the outcome of the upcoming Brexit negotiations. As May is trying to steer the country towards hard Brexit, she probably realises that this is difficult to justify without having gained her own government mandate. After all David Cameron won the 2015 general election on the basis of a pro-EU campaign. May will of course also have seen the worsening opinion polls for the Labour Party, which has slipped to an historic low. If nothing unforeseen happens May is therefore likely to crush the Labour Party in June and win by a landslide which will give her a strong mandate for cutting off all ties with the EU and to please the hard right eurosceptics in her own party.

Another factor may be an attempt to weaken the Scottish National Party if the SNP does win less seats in June than in 2015, which is possible if the Lib Dems win some support.

Overall I think that the outcome of this election will see a very clear win for the Conservatives with many seats gained, a crushing defeat for Labour with potentially more than 50 per cent of current seats lost, some gains for the Lib Dems but also probably a few seats going to UKIP, especially in the North of England.

Bill Jones, Senior Honorary Research Fellow,  Liverpool Hope University

This announcement came as a complete shock to everyone. Theresa May has appeared to be a very cautious woman, as befits a vicar’s daughter maybe, but she seems to have changed into a major political gambler. She became PM without an election so felt she needed a ‘mandate’ for her own satisfaction and to negotiate Brexit through parliament.

She also wants to take advantage of Labour’s current disarray: the party has been feuding for a two year period and appears disunited as well as incompetent under Corbyn. The polls show Conservatives on 44-45% and Labour on 23-25%. This could produce a landslide for May but given the totally unpredictable times, she could find she’s made a mistake. Labour will try to fight on health and education but I guess Brexit will dominate. Lib Dems, SNP and Greens want to reverse Brexit, Labour want to achieve a ‘soft’ deal, as close as possible to what we have right now. The polls suggest the country is still 50-50 on the question but with our voting system that’s hard to translate into likely figures.

All looks like being very exciting for folk like me but maybe voters are suffering from ‘voting fatigue and might stay at home in large numbers.

Mike Finn, Deputy Head of the School for Cross-Faculty Studies (Liberal Arts Division), Principal Teaching Fellow, University of Warwick

At the moment May has a commanding lead in the polls so it looks likely that a general election will result in the mandate that she seeks.

But the mandate is as much about her own party as the Labour opposition – and its not just about die hard remainders, however she wants to dress it up. With a bigger majority in Parliament she will be able to be more flexible in Brexit negotiations – she won’t be as vulnerable to being held hostage by the right wing of her party, and if Brexit negotiations go badly she’ll have a stronger power base.

Peter Snowdon, Contemporary Historian and Journalist, Co-Author of Cameron at 10: The Inside Story 2010-2015

The logic of calling an early election to give Theresa May a mandate of her own as Prime Minister and to give her a mandate when the Brexit negotiations begin in earnest was becoming irresistible. With Conservative poll leads in double digits and Labour in disarray now was the time to call it. That said, it is a decision not without its risks.

 

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