“I have just chaired a meeting of the Cabinet where we have agreed that the Government should call a general election to be held on the 8th of June.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaking outside No.10 in London a few minutes ago.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May (left) and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn
So, what now?
Bernard Purcell writes:
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, who, with her party, is currently more than 20 points ahead of her nearest rival in the opinion polls, called for a General Election on 8 June.
Because of the Fixed Term Parliament Act that was agreed as the price of Liberal Democrats going into coalition with David Cameron’s Tories in 2010 Mrs May cannot – as so many of her predecessors could – call a snap election.
She needs a two-thirds majority of Commons MPs so needs the support of Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition Labour Party.
If the Mrs May’s poll lead translates into General Election votes it means that many Labour MPs will find themselves on Wednesday in the position of turkeys being asked to vote for Christmas.
Early calculations suggest that if the election goes Mrs May’s way could come back with a far greater majority than her current 17 seats, perhaps as many as a hundred seats.
Given that at the moment her only mandate to be in Number 10 came from Tory MPs in post-Referendum party leadership contest – after David Cameron abdicated all responsibility for the mess he left behind – that would be very welcome to her and her supporters.
It should be noted that this forthcoming election will be contested on existing electoral boundaries, which will favour Labour – or at least ameliorate an otherwise unappettising prospect for the party.
The Prime Minister justified her call for a fresh electoral mandate by saying the opposition parties – Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalist Party – had all pledged to thwart her government over Brexit.
As such she is looking for a fresh Brexit mandate. The Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron was quick to accept the challenge and embrace the mantle of the official Brexit opposition – a move that should help his party recover its disastrous losses in the last election.
Labour, typically, was slow to react but still faster than it has been. In a statement issued in Jeremy Corbyn’s behalf the Labour leader accepted the electoral challenge – but conspicuously avoided any reference to Brexit.
Irish citizens living in the UK do have the right to vote in UK General Elections, as UK citizens in Ireland likewise can elect TDs to Dail Eireann.
Bernard Purcell is editor of the London-based Irish World.