Yesterday’s announcement of a snap election in 50 days was a surprise as any suggestions of elections were categorically denounced in the past. Many commentators have focused on the U-turn of Theresa May. They think that it is inevitable that the government will manage to increase its 7 seat majority even further. The prime minister is blamed to take advantage of a favourable public opinion. It seems to be less of an aspect that she will get her personal mandate, which a Prime Minister in such a situation like Brexit should have. Should the government be confirmed, there couldn’t be any claim anymore that the Brexit referendum was an accident.
Mrs May was working hard to make the Brexit a fait accompli and has been very successful in this. This was even more surprising as she showed an extreme hesitance to be transparent on Brexit plans. She also needed to be forced by courts to involve the parliament, but even though the vast majority of MPs disagreed with the result of the referendum, Mrs May won the necessary votes.
She is now trying to present herself as the only choice. Looking at the main leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, this claim is not too daring. The old-Socialist never managed to develop a distinct profile in the Brexit issue. Theresa May’s strength also derives from Labour’s weakness. On the liberal side of the argument, this inevitability of her victory causes some to cry foul, but doing this misses the point not only because the opposition parties are to be blamed for their situation, but also it distracts from the more relevant question of what is really at stake.
Mrs May comes across as if she just wants to see the snap election as a confirmation of already made decisions:
1. She wants to have a stronger hand in Brexit talks by having an own mandate and a strong majority. Critics say that she has already a sufficient majority. As mentioned above, she managed to get the support for Brexit in the parliament.
2. With the next election date moving from 2020 to 2022 she wants to have more time after Brexit to settle things, which could also give her more wiggle room in negotiations with the EU. This is a new argument, but not a new point to justify the U-turn.
3. The additional time would allow her government to implement legislative changes and to change existing EU regulations. This is mentioned as a natural consequence of the Brexit, but this is the point, which will decide in what United Kingdom or Little England the people are going to live. With a big majority in the parliament, the Tory government could start to reshape the country post Brexit.
This is the real blank cheque. Some are already waiting for the Tory manifest to see how such a new UK post-Brexit would look like. Would it be more compassionate, social as Theresa May indicated 9 month ago or does it transform Uk into a capitalist tax haven and Little US?
Don’t be mistaken: Even if a Tory manifest might suddenly take over Labour positions, a lot can happen in 5 years and not just U-turns of a prime minister. A prime minister can be replaced, policies can change. There is no indication that Theresa May’s policies are really shared by her own party. In three years time, the Tories might come to the conclusion that Theresa May was good for Brexit, but the post-Brexit phase needs a new PM and a new policy.
Let’s assume there will be another economic crisis, not so unlikely in a Brexit scenario: If a party has a resounding majority it will be unlikely that it will give up this majority in further snap elections to get a mandate for a policy change.
For liberal voters this must be alarming as it would be alarming for conservatives if Jeremy Corbyn would win, do the Brexit and then make a socialist country out of Little England. Just one pro-EU comment here: The advantage of being member in the EU is to have some protection against extreme policy changes. The British electoral system can provide a party with an overwhelming majority in the parliament with not even 40% of votes, which favours strong policy changes.
If the opposition manages to make clear that this vote is not just about an already taken route into Brexit, but far more than this, it should be possible to convince many voters to think twice. Anything which allows for more checks and balance will be better than the stability Mrs May is aiming for. In the past months, it was very worrying to watch how much she needed to be pressurized to involve the parliament. Blaming the opposition for her U-turn was Trump-esque. There is the smell of authoritarian rule in the air and therefore British voters: The expected outcome of the election must not be inevitable!