Prime Minister Theresa May has just announced her intention to hold a snap General Election on 8th June, despite previously saying that she has absolutely no intention to do so this year. But what did she really say in her announcement, and are the reasons she gives actually what they seem?
There have certainly been some instantaneous negative reactions to her announcement drawn from a variety of sources, despite both the Labour and Lib Dem leadership saying they welcome the announcement:
So much for putting country before party— Jess Phillips MP (@jessphillips) April 18, 2017
Dishonest and hypocritical words from the PM so far— Jonathan Reynolds MP (@jreynoldsMP) April 18, 2017
Tory Party puts its own interests before the national interest.— Andy Burnham (@andyburnhammp) April 18, 2017
So the Fixed Term Parliament Act was just a made up thing for the Coalition times. Shocker.— Kerron Cross (@KerronCross) April 18, 2017
The Tories see a chance to move the UK to the right, force through a hard Brexit and impose deeper cuts. Let's stand up for Scotland. #GE17— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) April 18, 2017
Whether or not her reasoning for holding the election at this time is justified, it is hard not to think that some of her language will not serve to promote "the national interest" at this time, but rather is an attempt to gain political territory. It is interesting that she says "there should be unity here in Westminster" but goes on to criticise all the other major political parties, as well as launching an attack on the "unelected" House of Lords, positioning the Conservatives further to the right and ready to fight their weak ground against UKIP.
Theresa May has pitched this general election as a vote for or against the continuation of the Brexit process under her leadership and her plan, and against any serious criticism from any other party. And yet, she makes no mention of the 48% who voted to stay in the EU. So unity, then, is about the victor enforcing their will over their opponents? If she thinks there is unity across the country but not in Westminster, she is very much mistaken. There is still anger and frustration in both camps and yet is there any appetite for a general election amongst the population in general? Sir Keir Starmer said today that "this general election is a result of the prime minister's failure to build a national consensus."
It seems then, that like so many others, Theresa May has fallen into the trap of mis-representing unity as a process of annihilation of the opposition, rather than agreeing to disagree: learning to compromise and working together, to create the best outcome for everyone.
Let us pray together that whoever governs after June 8th sees that a strong government is not one that enforces their rule over all others, but one that listens to everyone and leads us together, not just their own, most dedicated followers.
Watch the first section of Theresa May's announcement on the BBC:
[image credit ITV]