Nine months after taking the keys to Number 10, Theresa May has decided 8 June is the time to bet the house and has called a snap general election. Despite repeatedly insisting that an election would be an unnecessary distraction, the temptation to secure a five-year term in office has become overwhelming. At Redwood Consulting, we help make sense of a surprising and consequential morning.
It isn’t hard to understand why the Prime Minister has taken the plunge. The government’s working majority of 17 is uncomfortably tight and could shortly make things very difficult. Opinion polls suggest the Conservatives are running far ahead of Labour, and look comfortable favourites (even by the standards of recent political predictions!). Brexit negotiations will be extremely challenging: the security of a healthy majority and five more years in office would be welcome. Conservative HQ will be keen to talk down comparisons, but Tony Blair’s 1997 majority of 179 is an interesting benchmark, with an opposition in complete disarray. It’s also worth noting that the Crown Prosecution Service is considering prosecuting several Conservative MPs for their election expenses in 2015, something this election should help put to bed.
Many Labour MPs are likely to have an eye on their next jobs throughout the short campaign, convinced they are headed for electoral oblivion. At this point, a third Labour leadership election in three years would not be a surprise. The Liberal Democrats will feel they can pick up seats from Labour and improve significantly on their 2010 performance. Nicola Sturgeon will be happy: five more years of Conservative government will play well for the Scottish National Party, who will doubtless commit to a second independence referendum in their Westminster manifesto. UKIP’s credibility will be further tested.
Assuming it gets through Parliament, this will also put paid to the idea that the Fixed-Term Parliament Act means we now have a static, five-year electoral cycle. It looks like the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ will remain as unpredictable as ever.
The local picture
Yes, we still have local elections coming up on 4 May. Some of our major urban areas (including Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham) will elect powerful new Metro Mayors; county councillors will be elected up and down the country.
These contests have just become even more significant, one month out from a general election. Turnout should be up and senior figures in national parties will be campaigning hard to ensure a good showing. Cabinet ministers and their shadows will be flooding the West Midlands and the West of England – the tightest races – in an attempt to boost their prospects in Westminster.
Almost two months of Brexit negotiations have just been lost to an election campaign that will set the tone for the governance of Britain until 2022, and for our relationship with Europe far beyond that. It will be an interesting, momentous seven weeks for the property industry and for the country. If you would like to discuss implications and opportunities for your business, please get in touch.