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Britain gears up for a snap Brexit election

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Prime Minister Theresa May announces a snap election, which will be held on June 8.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Prime Minister Theresa May announces a snap election, which will be held on June 8.
B renda from Bristol spoke for many people in the UK when, asked by the BBC how she felt about a third national vote in as many years, she exclaimed: “You’re joking. Not another one! Oh for God’s sake, I can’t stand this.”
For nine months after becoming prime minister last July, Theresa May and her allies repeated that there would be no snap general election despite the fact that her government was almost completely different from the one elected in 2015.
Then, as the country got sleepily back to work after the Easter weekend on Tuesday morning, Ms. May emerged from Number 10 Downing Street and told reporters that “the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead” was to hold an election on June 8.
Why the rethink? Ms. May said that whereas the country was coming together behind Brexit, opposition politicians were trying to sabotage it. In fact, polls show that voters are as divided as they were last June over leaving the EU, while the bill triggering divorce talks easily passed through Parliament unamended.
Nonetheless, Ms. May’s Conservatives hold only a thin majority in the House of Commons. Amber Rudd, the home secretary, hinted in a BBC interview that the prime minister wanted leeway in case she makes more concessions to the EU than eurosceptic backbenchers had hoped and they rebel against the final deal (if one is reached). Equally, pro-EU Tories such as Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke might vote against a particularly harsh agreement.
Either way, Ms. May is set for a bumper majority, which would also help her push through controversial domestic measures such as school and tax reforms. One recent poll gave the Conservatives a 21-point lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Electoral Calculus, a nonpartisan group that crunches survey data, predicts that Labour will have its worst performance since 1935.
One consolation for Mr. Corbyn is that the UK Independence Party, until recently considered a threat in northern working-class seats, is in disarray. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are expected to take back some Conservative constituencies which voted to remain in the EU.
Ultimately, Ms. May’s aim is probably to push the next general election back from 2020 to 2022. That way, it will not be held immediately after Brexit takes effect.
Joe Wallace
The World Weekly
20 April 2017 - last edited 20 April 2017