Tuesday 19 November 2019

May gambles by playing politics in an election she seemingly can't lose

British Prime Minister Theresa May Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
British Prime Minister Theresa May Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire


'There is no gambling like politics' - Benjamin Disraeli.

No doubt Theresa May would be happy to draw upon the words of Disraeli, the 19th century prime minister who shaped the modern Conservative Party, defining its policies of popular democracy and imperialism.

The latter day British prime minister arguably drew inspiration from those notions in her decisive actions yesterday.

She is affording democracy the opportunity to give her a mandate to proceed with the Brexit negotiations in the way she sees fit - and that will be a hard exit from the EU.

Mrs May wants the electorate to feel being appointed as prime minister without the backing of the ballot box isn't enough. She merely became prime minister in the turmoil that followed the Brexit vote 11 months ago.

And Brexit was a game-changer.

She wants to stand before the people and get her own validation - not merely lead the Tory party of MPs elected under David Cameron.

Now the prime minister says a strong government is needed before pushing ahead with the Brexit talks with the European Union.

The prime minister said she would go to Parliament and ask for the national vote on June 8, adding: "We need a general election and we need one now."

Without a snap general election Mrs May said "political game-playing" in Westminster will coincide with negotiations reaching their "most difficult stage" in the run-up to the previously scheduled 2020 election.

"Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit, and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country," she claimed.

In reality though, this election is about 'political game-playing'.

The prime minister has called this general election at this time to cement her party's grip on power.

She made the announcement from the steps of Number 10 Downing Street, following months of favourable polls for the Tories.

Those polls show calling an election is a relatively risk-free move for the Conservative Party.

Mrs May is virtually guaranteed to return to No 10. The only question to be answered is how big is her majority.

Such is the weakness of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn that analysts are suggesting a majority of anything up to 300 seats.

If there was a credible leader of the opposition, the prime minister wouldn't be going anywhere near the voters until 2020.

Mrs May says her moment of clarity which convinced her to call the election came while she was walking in Snowdonia in Wales with her husband before Easter.

The prime minister has made a virtue of her decision to U-turn on an election after repeatedly saying it was not something she would consider.

The election won't change the make-up of the government in Whitehall.

However, it will affect the approach to the Brexit negotiations and have implications for the future of the union, including Northern Ireland's place in a more isolationist Britain that harks after the long lost days of the Empire.

The days of Disraeli are gone.

Irish Independent

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