UK Prime Minister Theresa May wants to call a General Election for June 8, 2017. However, unlike her predecessors, she must ask for a Parliament vote on the issue.
When May took over as Prime Minister, the UK was divided. Many people argued that she hadn’t been voted in by the people. However, that isn’t how the UK Prime Minister is elected. The Prime Minister is the head of the party—and the person chosen by the party. Initially she fought off requests for calling a General Election so people had the chance to approve her in the position, but now she has U-turned on that decision.
Acknowledging that she wants to make the U-turn, she explained that it would put Brexit in a stronger position. She must ask Parliament for the right, unlike predecessors, who would just have to request Queen Elizabeth II’s support in calling an early election. This is due to the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, which meant that the next General Election would actually be in 2020.
When David Cameron headed the Coalition government in 2010, he and his coalition parliament introduced the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011. It stated that all parliaments would have five years, unless parliament voted and agreed on an earlier election. Before this, a prime minister could call an election at any time within a five-year period. In most cases, General Elections were called every four years, but some would be held off until the fifth year.
The benefit of the fixed term is that the British people don’t have to go to the polls regularly. Turning up to vote becomes a chore and there has been low turnout in recent years. However, the people have been at the polls more often in the last five years due to various referendums and votes, especially in Scotland.
Since 2010, the Scottish people have been at the polls at least once a year on average for the Scottish Parliament elections, the independence referendum, the EU Parliament elections, the 2015 General Election, and the Brexit referendum. If this 2017 General Election is accepted by Parliament, Northern Ireland constituents will be at the polls for the third time in just over a year.
If Parliament agrees to the early General Election—called a ‘snap’ election—then voters will be asked to go to the polls on June 8, 2017. May needs to get a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons, which means May needs cross-party support, according to the New Statesman. At the moment, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn supports the idea of a snap election, while SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is against it. If Labour members back their leader and all Conservative members supported May’s call, May will get the two-thirds backing that she needs.
It is unclear how this will turn out if a General Election is called. The Conservatives will hope that they gain seats in Scotland to undermine Sturgeon’s call for a second independence referendum. However, Corbyn will hope that Labour gain more seats to become a stronger opposition party in the House of Commons. Some opinion polls show that May will gain a Conservative majority, but the opinion polls have been extremely wrong in the past!
The decision to call for the General Election is surprising, as May has repeatedly said that it would not happen. However, she hopes that the General Election will mean more support for Brexit. The European Union has stated that the snap election does not affect Brexit negotiations.
More news will follow as Parliament votes on the snap General Election.
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