W.M.M.D? What may May do?
She took me by surprise, I was not expecting that at all. Theresa May has called a General Election. After constantly saying that this government would go full term, she has suddenly announced an election. It seems that unlike our previous female Prime Minister, this lady is for turning.
I thought I knew what Mrs May was doing. After becoming leader of the Conservative Party, and by default Prime Minister, back in July, following the resignation of David Cameron, after the Brexit vote (in which both Cameron and May campaigned on the remain side) she has consistently focussed on doing the exact opposite of what she campaigned for. It sounds odd, but I think I know why. It is all down to negotiating position.
When I wrote about my position on Brexit a year ago I said, “So as far as the UK domestic policy goes, there does not seem to be a lot in it whether we stay in the EU or leave.” I also said, “The EU would be stronger with the UK involved. Our membership is better for Europe.” Assuming I was right, Mrs May could be being clever, because with a hard Brexit, the UK has less to lose than the remaining EU, so instead of it being up to the UK to negotiate what we can get from the split, it is up to the EU. They have to negotiate for what they can get, having to give us concessions in order to get it. I am hoping I was right, about the EU wanting to have concessions, otherwise it would be like cutting your nose off to spite your face. I am also hoping that Mrs May is clever enough to realise this.
So calling an election could be, could be, part of a cunning plan to get as much out of the EU as we can, and that if the UK government has a larger majority then our negotiating position will be stronger.
If the UK government really wants this hard Brexit, and the EU really want to give us nothing, and Spain is really going to veto any concessions to the UK, then there is nothing to negotiate. So why run the risk of an election just before the negotiations start. Which is why I believe that the hard Brexit is no more than rhetoric, an opening position for negotiation.
It is a risk. A large turn out for the pro remain parties, the Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists and Greens, could leave the negotiating position weakened to the point where we cannot leave. A minority Government from the parties who have pledges to abide by the Brexit result, Conservative and Labour, would need to be in coalition with a party that wants us to remain in the EU. It would be easy to say that the country no longer has a mandate to leave.
Which is why I am confused about Theresa May’s reasoning behind calling an election. Is she trying to strengthen the Conservative Party’s position before the Brexit negotiations or trying to weaken the mandate for leaving? After all she did campaign for the remain side. Could it be that she is hedging her bets?
The best guess, I think, is to look at her voting record before Brexit. She is no progressive Tory, consistently being anti-immigration and isolationist, it was a turn around for her to support the remain campaign. Then she campaigned for Conservative leader as a progressive, but on becoming PM has become staunchly hard line again. Now she has changed her mind about holding a General Election.
As I said, this lady is for turning.
What may May do? I don’t believe even she knows the answer to that.