Theresa May has announced that there will be a General Election in a matter of weeks. She will go to the country on Thursday June 8.
This will be the third major vote that the public will face in as many years, after the General Election in 2015 and the referendum about the European Union last year. If you live in Scotland, you would have the independence referendum in September 2014 on top of all these. You can’t say we don’t have democracy in this country, although I can imagine Brenda from Bristol speaks for millions of people. For those who haven’t seen, Brenda was interviewed by the BBC about her reaction to the news about the General Election. She said: “You’re joking. Not another one? Oh for God’s sake. I can’t stand this. There’s too much politics going on at the moment. Why does Theresa May need to do it?”
Brenda from Bristol not only reflected the mood of millions when faced with a general election, but also perceptively put her finger on the politics of this all. Of course Theresa May doesn’t need to do this.
The Government has a working majority in Parliament, able to get its legislative programme through the House of Commons without too much difficulty. The single biggest issue of the day – that of Brexit –saw Article 50 triggered, and given the consent of Parliament with a large majority in the House of Commons and without a single amendment to the legislation passed. The notion that somehow now there is a need for a General Election, rather than even a couple of months ago, is preposterous.
At a time when the Brexit clock is ticking and there is a paramount need to get a great and positive deal for Britain within the two year deadline, the idea that the whole of Government will grind to a halt and the Prime Minister will spend the next seven weeks not considering the best negotiation position for this country but campaigning up and down the country shows vividly how she is putting party advantage before what is best for the country.
It is clear why the Prime Minister is doing this. There will be a part of her being eaten away at the fact that she hasn’t got a democratic mandate of her own – but is in fact riding on David Cameron’s tailcoats. There will also be a sense that some of the economic uncertainty arising from Brexit, with the potential halting of investment as companies wait and see what happens with negotiations, will start to come home to roost, with dark clouds starting to emerge on the economic front. Sterling’s recent fall has started to push prices – and hence inflation – up, which might mean that the Bank of England has to resort to putting up interest rates.
And of course there is the political situation. The Prime Minister has a commanding lead in the opinion polls. She believes that she can turn her Parliamentary majority into something much more substantial. I don’t think I’m being too cynical in saying that is all about putting party advantage above the long-term interests of the country. There was no need for a General Election. The Prime Minister is clearly doing it to shore up her own position.
But all of this politics and electioneering will now be done without me. I’ve been an MP for 13 years – essentially a third of my life. I’ve never seen the job as something for life; I’ve always thought of it in batches of four or five years. It has been a tremendous honour to have been Member of Parliament for my home town, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have served. But I would like to go and do other things. I know my long-suffering family would like me to be a proper husband and father again. Thank you again to Hartlepool for the enormous privilege of being its Member of Parliament. Thank you, goodbye and very best wishes.