Late last year, and mere months after winning the top job from her predecessor David Cameron, British Prime Minister Theresa May assured a public deeply divided over the Brexit issue that she would not call for a snap election anytime soon.
At a sudden address outside of 10 Downing Street earlier today, May went back on this commitment, and said she would soon ask the House of Commons to allow an early general election on June 8th.
While in other circumstances a move like this might be met with scoffs and mild indignation over a broken political promise, it’s unlikely this announcement will be seen as particularly controversial, and not only because of May’s insistence that a snap election is in the “national interest.”
With Britain’s divorce talks with the EU set to commence soon, the Prime Minister is facing a great deal of pressure and division both within Parliament and in the public sphere.
According to May, a Conservative victory in these June elections would arm the government with a strong and confident mandate to proceed with the EU negotiations and minimise the “risk” that internal arguing posed to a successful split.
An assured five year term would also grant the Prime Minister some much needed breathing room to set and implement her domestic agenda alongside the talks.
“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 said.
“We have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the EU agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin.”
Now is also a good a time as any for May to face the country’s voters.
The Conservatives currently enjoy a close but clear majority of 330 seats out of 650 in the House of Commons, while Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party are falling behind in public opinion polls.
While Corbyn has welcomed the announcement and a new chance to show “how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain”, it is possible tensions within the Opposition party over whether to allow the election at all will rise in the coming days.
With tough talks with the 28 member EU still ahead of her, it’s uncertain whether May’s quiet popularity would last until 2020, when the next official round of elections are scheduled to occur.
Two-thirds of the House of Commons have to approve May’s request before a snap election can occur.