Despite repeated assurances to the contrary, on 19 April Theresa May performed one of the most remarkable volte-faces in recent British political history: she called an election. The arithmetic had long been compelling; not often do Prime Ministers enjoy such commanding polling leads for such a lengthy period of time.
Inevitably, the election has been spun on grounds other than pure electioneering. Westminster is divided, while the country is united or so we are told. The fact that Theresa May can claim this with a straight face is revealing of her remarkable composure – one cannot imagine David Cameron presenting his case with such apparent sincerity. It is Westminster that is in fact united – Article 50 was triggered by a 494 to 122 margin, a proportion which does not for a second represent the true feelings of the British electorate, which is still reasonably divided on the issue.
Westminster is divided, while the country is united or so we are told.
Perhaps, despite her no-nonsense style and her apparent aversion to the dirty reality of politics, she found the temptation too irresistible. Simply put, if these poll leads remain steady up until 8th June, they will translate into a whopping majority, ending the need for embarrassing climb-downs such as the one over National Insurance. She holds in her hands the prospect of humiliating the Labour Party and at least causing injury to the Scottish Nationalists, whose referendum campaign will be significantly harmed by the presence of a large handful of Scottish Tory MPs. Indeed the greatest problem the Conservatives face seems rather paradoxically to be that of Jeremy Corbyn. There is concern within the party that the infeasibility of Corbyn as Prime Minister will diminish turnout, or lead to many casting their vote based on their local MP, safe in the knowledge that this election is done and dusted. An only modestly increased majority would most likely do harm to May’s personal mandate, after she risked her credibility by calling an election she repeatedly assured the country she wouldn’t. Complacency is not an option.
Labour appear to have gone on the defensive, targeting their resources on threatened seats to try and ensure the rump of the party remains. The local elections were such a catastrophe that this appears to be a wise move. But it could be 2022 the next time the party can fight a general election; if Corbyn truly wants to transform the country, all-or-nothing might be the only option. After all, we have seen in the past year some truly remarkable political events in the past 12 months. The very fact that Corbyn is leader of the Labour Party is emblematic of the shifts in the political winds since the days of Miliband and Cameron.
if these poll leads remain steady up until 8th June, they will translate into a whopping majority
Clearly, this is as close to a single-issue campaign as can be. For Lib Dems, this offers a semblance of hope, although admittedly their campaign has got off to a rocky start. UKIP, meanwhile, are dead on arrival. Ironically, an increased Tory majority will not so much strengthen May’s hand, but rather allow her to make concessions her bloodthirsty backbenchers would never otherwise acquiesce to. Or perhaps Brexit will continue, full-steam ahead, as hard and as clean as some of the more chauvinistic rhetoric emerging from the leadership has suggested.
Over the coming weeks, until 8th June, The Worldly will be publishing a series of articles by young writers on the upcoming general election. They will be giving their verdicts, analysis and commentary on the campaign, the parties, and the issues. Will the saboteurs be crushed? Or will British politics be transformed by the first truly left-wing government in its history?