Matt Frei is Leading Britain's Conversation.
18 April 2017, 12:58
As the Prime Minister calls for an early election, David Mellor reveals what he he thinks is the true motivation for her U-turn.
The only surprising thing about Theresa May’s announcement of a general election on June 8th is that it has taken her so long to call one.
It was obvious that with the small majority she inherited from David Cameron, and, what is more, a majority won on the back of Cameron’s pledge to stay in the EU, there was too much wriggle room for her many opponents, not just in front of her, but behind her, on Brexit.
She needs a Brexit majority, not the remnants of Cameron’s Remain one.
In practical reality, her real problems lie within her own party and within the House of Lords. Within her own party there are a couple of dozen MPs who, not for any disreputable reasons, but on grounds of principle, will do all they can to prevent Brexit. It will be difficult for them to do so in the event that she wins a large majority on her own account.
But the real reason for this election is the House of Lords. Here, thanks to Blair, but especially thanks to Cameron, who between them appointed over 600 Peers, the government finds itself in a minority of 100, even when only counting the Labour and Lib Dem Peers. The Lib Dems especially have a seemingly endless appetite for trouble, and the only way to contain them is a strong mandate, especially if in this election the Lib Dems do badly. Tim Farron has been full of bluster since the announcement, but it’s hard to see him, or anyone else on the Lib Dem benches, having the firepower to get back to where the Lib Dems once were.
Is she certain though, to win a big majority? After all, a poll of poll shows 42% Conservative, and 25% Labour. A massacre in other words.
But not necessarily so. Labour has a lot of seats in which they are so entrenched, even a poor result overall will not shake their grip. It’s impossible to imagine Corbyn doing well, and, as a house divided against itself, Labour surely cannot expect to do any more than contain the scale of their defeat.
Looking further afield, what will become of all those UKIP voters? With Farage gone, a successor of almost stunning lack of credibility, and their main cause – a decision to exit the EU – already achieved, it’s hard to think of a good reason for voting UKIP.
An increasing number of UKIP voters were originally Labour people. Will they, despite Corbyn’s inadequacies, drift back to Labour? Or will Theresa May’s attempts to build a bridge to the JAMs – the many millions who are Just About Managing - be successful?
No election is a foregone conclusion. Every election has surprises. Anyone who speaks with too much certainty should always remember the wise words of Harold Macmillan, when Prime Minister, about what worried him, as he looked ahead. “Events, events dear boy”, he murmured in reply. And it was events that brought him down very soon after what seemed to have been a triumphant election. And there could be plenty of events over the next 6 weeks.
But Theresa May has not only done the right thing, she has done the only thing. For me, having suggested in these blogs way before Christmas she should call an election, my surprise is; what has taken her so long? Even if it’s not the unalloyed triumph that some are predicting, she surely cannot fail to be in a much better place than she is now.
The voters of this country may be perverse, but not that perverse.