Those who remember the events that transpired after the UK General Election of 2010, and specifically the negotiations involving the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Alliance that formed the government for the next five years, might have been surprised by the announcement that Prime Minister Theresa May was seeking an early election. Such people will remember that one of the major parts of the alliance was the agreement on fixed-term parliaments which would last for five years. This was a policy that had been advocated by Liberal Democrats for many years because they opposed what they saw as manipulation of the electoral system for purely party political ends. To that end the Parliament Act of 2011 was passed, bringing the fixed terms into effect. If this is the case then how could Theresa May call for and achieve an early election? Surely she would have to wait until 2020 for the next UK General Election, as specified by the Act.
There was proviso built into the 2011 Act, however, which provided for the possibility of an early election if this was voted for by a so-called super majority in the House of Commons, this being defined as a two-thirds majority. Could Mrs May be sure of achieving such a majority when her lead in Parliament over the Labour and other opposition parties was a mere seventeen members? In fact in the event, the vote on the 19th April saw the proposal pass comfortably with 522 voting in favour of 2017 UK General Election and only 13 against. The fact that the vast majority of Labour, Liberal Democrat and other opposition members voted in favour of an early election may seem strange when we consider that opinion polls were consistently giving the Conservative government a double figure lead over the Labour Party, and that if the vote matches the polls then the result could a Conservative majority the like of which has not been seen in British politics since the early 1930s. However, we should perhaps not be too cynical here and consider that many matters of great import to the UK can be debated and a firm national policy decided on by a vote in the UK General Election of 2017.
The principal question that will be addressed in the 2017 UK General Election is the matter of the Brexit negotiations and how these should be handled. It was the need for a strong leadership at such a time which moved Prime Minister May away from her earlier opposition to an early election. In fact when we remember that Mrs May herself, as a member of then Prime Minister David Cameron’s government was an opponent of Brexit, then it could be suggested that a UK General Election in 2017 is a necessary step to gain a mandate to deal with the Brexit negotiations in a way that is consistent with the Conservative view of the UK’s best interests. In the same way, the opposition parties, especially the Labour party will wish to gain a platform for their own views on the future’s country in relation to Europe.