In 2015, Conservatives (the Tories) roared to a majority in Parliament. Labor, led by the feckless Jeremy Corbyn, finished well below its final polling average. During the campaign. then Prime Minister David Cameron in a bid to appease UKIP supporters, promised a vote on leaving the European Union (Brexit). Ultimately Cameron acquiesced and the country is reeling from the consequences.
Despite Cameron abiding by his promise he stepped down in late last year after Brexit. He had backed staying in the EU and many loyal, Conservative supporters did not trust him as a result. His replacement, Theresa May, also initially backed staying in the EU but has 100 percent backed the will of the voters.
May has not had an easy initial go of it. She only maintains a nominal majority of 10 seats (330 out of 650) and her efforts to implement Brexit have been stymied by the Courts and members of her own party. Unlike UKIP, Conservatives have long been divided on the issue of the EU which is why they have shed voters in local elections to UKIP.
This is probably why May was even considering holding a snap election at all. Two recent polls released this weekend, showing the Tories with massive 21 point leads, probably pushed her the rest of the way. If these polls hold all the way up to June 8th, the Tories stand to gain a 100 to 200 seat majority in Parliament (their biggest ever).
The unpopularity of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also has to be playing a big part. According to the polls almost or 50 percent of voters see Teresa May as the right leader for Prime Minister. But Corbyn is third behind the “Don’t Knows.” His party is divided between his far left acolytes and a more centrist Parliamentary contingent of which 90 percent do not recognize him as the leader of their party.
It is possible after this election Labour becomes the third largest party in Parliament after shedding seats in Scottland to the SNP and dozens of seats to the Tories and Liberal Democrats (the last pro-EU party in the UK proper) in June. Corbyn’s relentless drive to make his party adopt his left-wing cultural and fiscal policies has made Labour blue-collar seats ripe for the plucking.
Further benefiting the Tories is UKIP is disorganized. May’s full throated endorsement and pursuit of Brexit has made the independent, nationalist UKIP lose its appeal to many Tory voters. Further, without Brexit to campaign on the party is now left to reorganize and decide what issues it wants to campaign on moving forward.
Ultimately though, while all these factors might have influenced May to hold an election, the biggest factor might be that May feels she needs an election under her belt to guide the party. Specifically, an election victory of sufficient magnitude would give her a mandate to govern the UK. Further, the June election will coincide with elections in France and Germany and a Tory victory could give her the leverage she needs to negotiate with these countries leaders and get a better deal for her nation.
It is also possible May be deciding it is smart to hold an election when the economy is doing well. Brexit could have destabilizing effects and her party would probably be blamed. Before that happens, it would be foolish not to bolster her party’s majority and her power.
The political and international context of this election aside, it is interesting this election will feature two firsts for the nation in a generation. May, 60, and Corbyn, 67, are septuagenarians. This is the first time in over 60 years the UK is faced with a choice between two septuagenarian major party leaders. The nation has had a generation of young leaders from Tony Blair to David Cameron guiding its sails since the 90’s and the political battles fought have largely been over a matter of degrees.
There is no matter of degrees between Corbyn and May. Corbyn is a left-wing ideologue fighting for trillions in new spending and an eternal rebel in his party. May, is the eptiome of a small “C” conservative Englander and is fighting to streamline government. When voters go to the polls in June they may never have faced such a stark choice.