Against the backdrop of the June 2016 “Brexit” vote to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union, and seeking to strengthen her position in Parliament, British Prime Minister Theresa May called for early elections on Tuesday morning.
In a statement in front of 10 Downing Street, May described the need for “certainty, stability and strong leadership following the EU referendum.”
“We want a deep and special partnership between a strong and successful European Union and a United Kingdom that is free to chart its own way in the world. That means we will regain control of our own money, our own laws and our own borders and we will be free to strike trade deals with old friends and new partners all around the world,” she said.
“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.”
“Our opponents believe because the government’s majority is so small, that our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course. They are wrong.”
May continued to outline her rationale for calling snap elections, chronicling months of threats by Labour to derail any final agreement extracting the UK from the EU, and persistent warnings from Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats and unelected members of the House of Lords, all of whom have said they intend to bring negotiations and government to a “standstill” over Brexit.
May currently holds a slim 17-seat margin over Labour in the House of Commons. Recent polling shows Tories hold a 21-point advantage over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, the widest margin since Gordon Brown was Prime Minister.
Reacting to May’s decision to hold snap elections this morning, Corbyn gave reporters the opposition party’s argument.
“I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first,” he said. “Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS.”
Prior to this morning’s announcement for a snap election, the last time an early election was called was 1974. Following a hung Parliament in February elections, Prime Minister Harold Wilson called for October elections amid a miner’s strike. Wilson’s gamble paid off and the vote produced a three-seat majority for his Labour Party.
Previous to 1974, in 1951, Prime Minister Clement Atlee called early elections shortly after the 1950 general election. Atlee badly miscalculated, his Labour Party lost 22 seats and returns favoring Tories paved the way for Winston Churchill to return to the premiership.
Although May said elections would be tentatively scheduled for June 8, the House of Commons will vote on the proposal on Wednesday.
[BBC News] [Mirror] [The Telegraph] [CGTN] [Photo courtesy BBC]