In a stunning about-turn, British Prime Minister Theresa May called for a parliamentary debate and subsequent vote on a proposal to hold a snap general election in the U.K. in 2017.
During the debate, held on Wednesday afternoon in the House of Commons, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reminded the prime minister that she had previously stated emphatically that there wouldn’t be a general election until 2020. Mr. Corbyn said that May couldn’t expect voters to trust her after such a sudden row back.
“We welcome the general election. But this is a prime minister who promised there wouldn’t be one. A prime minister who cannot be trusted.”
Theresa May insisted that she made the decision reluctantly and that a 2017 U.K. general election was of national importance to the country. She added that she hoped it would bring about unity during a difficult time as the United Kingdom negotiated the terms of Brexit.
“I genuinely came to this decision reluctantly having looked at the circumstances and having looked ahead at the process of negotiation. I want this country to be able to play the strongest hand possible in those negotiations and be in a position to get the best possible deal.”
Jeremy Corbyn lionized the Labour Party as being the only party that is focussed on living wages, debt, child poverty, and a severely beleaguered National Health System. Mr. Corbyn lashed out at Conservatives for “broken promises” and blamed them for the starving children in schools, while the rich enjoyed tax cuts.
“Austerity has failed. Over the last seven years, the Tories have broken every promise on living standards, the deficit, debt, the health service and schools funding. Why should anyone believe a word they say over the next seven weeks?”
Theresa May hit back by saying that the Tories were the only ones capable of ensuring the United Kingdom’s economic strength, and added that the Labour Party would bankrupt the Treasury. May also said that she was very proud of her government’s achievements with regard to increased spending on healthcare and a decrease in unemployment.
Corbyn, however, wasn’t having any of it. He rebuked Theresa May for not being willing to debate her record on national television.
“She cannot be allowed to run away from her duty to democracy and refuse to let the British people hear the arguments directly.”
May, however, said she believes that going out into the public and “knocking on doors” to meet voters would be much more beneficial than time spent in television studios embroiled in debates. She appealed to all MP’s to vote for the general election as she asked the representatives of their constituencies to place their trust in her.
Interestingly, a Sky poll revealed that 64 percent of U.K. residents were in support of television debates for the upcoming general election campaign, whereas only 31 percent weren’t interested and 5 percent were unsure.
After the votes had been tallied, the motion for a 2017 U.K. general election was approved by an overwhelming margin of 522 for and 13 against. It was also announced that the date for the general election would be June 8, 2017.
Critics of Theresa May believed that she had been motivated by opportunism after recent polls show the prime minister soaring high in approval ratings. However, Mrs. May defended her motivation as stemming from a legitimate desire to prevent Britain from being at a disadvantage while negotiating Brexit.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) First Minister Nicola Sturgeon assured reporters that May’s decision would place Scotland in an even stronger position to hold a second independence referendum. Scotland overwhelmingly opted to Remain in last year’s Brexit referendum.
“Yesterday [Theresa May] changed her mind, not for the good of the country, but for reasons of simple party advantage. Make no mistake, if the SNP wins this election in Scotland, and the Tories don’t, then Theresa May’s attempt to block our mandate, to give the people of Scotland a choice, over their own future when the time is right, will crumble to dust.”
Conservative lawmakers have rallied behind Mrs. May and defended her decision as a courageous move that showed the prime minister was deeply invested in the security and stability of Britain.
Former Conservative Justice Secretary and staunch Leave campaigner Michael Gove said he knew Mrs. May to be a “highly ethical” politician and said she wouldn’t do anything that was not in the national interest.
So far, the odds of a strong Tory win in the 2017 U.K. general election are looking bright. Conservatives currently have a marginal lead of 17 seats, but many pollsters are confident that the number could rise significantly on June 8.
Certain polls even show the Tories at a vote share nearly twice as much as Corbyn’s Labour Party. A landslide for the Tories could see them wrestle up to 56 seats away from the opposition, thus giving the Conservatives total control of the House of Commons.
[Feature Image by Frank Augstein/AP Images]