UK General Election: An Early But Necessary Election?

In 2011 the newly installed Conservative-Liberal Democrat Alliance government formed in the aftermath of the UK General Election of 2010, passed legislation through parliament which sought to set the term for governments in the future. This Parliament Act of 2011 seemed to mark a decisive change in British political life and economic situation. For the first time in the UK’s long democratic history, the date of the next general election would be known far in advance. In fact, we would know when the next voting day for a new government would be five years in advance since this was the term set upon future parliaments. In regulating the timing of future UK General Elections, the Parliament Act seemed to mark a move away from traditional British politics towards a system more similar to that of the USA. This was a move favoured strongly by the Liberal Democrat party and was one of the conditions they insisted upon before joining the coalition with Prime Minister’s Cameron’s conservatives.

How then can explain the arrival of a UK General Election in 2017, three years before it was mandated by the Parliament Act? Are we about to experience an early election? The answer you give to that question may well depend on where you stand on the political spectrum and also on how cynical you are about the political process as a whole. There is a perfectly convincing answer to the question and it was provided by Prime Minister Theresa May when she announced that she called for an election on April 18th, 2017. The Prime Minister stated that she felt that an election was necessary to provide a strong mandate for the government to negotiate the terms of Brexit, Britain withdrawal from the European Union, voted for in 2016 but still not put into effect. We should remember that the present government, elected in 2015, opposed Brexit, and Prime Minister Cameron resigned after its passing.  A UK General Election in 2017 will focus strongly on Brexit, and allow the issue to be publically debated and resolved.

There is a more cynical answer to the question, though; a UK General Election in 2017 seems likely to result in the re-election of a Conservative Government with an increased majority. The polls were, in April of 2017, showing the Conservatives enjoying double-digit leads over the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties. If these poll numbers turn into candidates elected on the voting day then we could be looking at a Conservative majority that could potentially eclipse those of the Labour Landslides of 1997 and 1945 and not seen since the Great Depression Elections of the 1930s, when the Labour Party under Lansbury was reduced to an ineffectual electoral rump. Which is the correct answer to our initial question? Is this is a cynical move for partisan political advantage or a necessary step, an early election to deal unprecedented circumstances, called by a Prime Minister with only her country’s best interests at heart? Only history will de3cide the reasons behind the calling of the early UK General Election of 2017.

(Simon Topliss, Research)

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