Interviews with Political Society Leaders

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Following Theresa May’s preliminary announcement that there would not be a General Election until 2020, the Prime Minister’s decision to then call a snap election for June 8th understandably came as a shock to many. We spoke to representatives from our political societies here at university to hear their thoughts regarding the announcement, and whether they believe June 8th is the right time for May’s decision. 

Alexander Blums, Politics Society President, 2016-17 :

Theresa May has seized a fantastic opportunity by calling the snap general election on June the 8th. In order to successfully proceed with the Brexit negotiations, May needs a popular mandate and enough votes in the Parliament to prevent Eurosceptic MP’s from undermining the negotiation process.

To effectively govern without creating an impression for the electorate that the Conservative party cannot agree on anything, she had to call the election sooner or later. In terms of timing, now is the perfect time to do it. She is way ahead in polls (by as much as 19 points according to some polls). The Labour party is fractured and deeply unpopular. The Lib Dems are gaining popularity, so waiting too long could see them gaining even more support.

Finally, while the falling pound has meant that more business investment has come to the U.K., in the long-term, voters are likely to soon notice consumer prices rising, so a boost for the national currency and a slowdown of inflation could eventually contribute towards higher popularity for the Conservatives. By calling the vote on June 8th, May has a lot to gain without much risk of ending up in a worse-off position than she is at the moment.

Matthew Cowley, Southampton University Conservative Association President, 2016 :

June 8th was the logical time for a General Election within the next two years. Not only was it the right time, it was the only time to secure strong and stable leadership for the Brexit negotiations.

It should not be over-stated how important a larger majority would be for the Brexit negotiations. If Labour, the Lib Dems, and the SNP had sought to prevent the final Brexit deal being passed, the fate of Brexit would have laid with rebels: if it was a softer Brexit, hard Brexit rebels might have delayed it, and vice versa. A larger majority would give the Prime Minister much needed breathing space around the kind of deal that she negotiates, meaning she is free to negotiate the best deal for Britain.

Winning a General Election would also put to bed any claims that Theresa May’s government lacked the democratic legitimacy to enact one kind of Brexit or another. It would remove the (incorrect) claim that the Prime Minister is unelected and give her the mandate to get on with the job.

An election now, before negotiations would have started, gives Theresa May the chance to get on with the job in hand with negotiations, and deliver strong and stable leadership in the national interest.

Elliot Alexander, Labour Society Social Secretary, 2017-18:

Theresa May’s surprise announcement of a June General Election was certainly unprecedented, not only as the first snap election called since 1974’s historic double, but as a tactical election called from the ashes of a Conservative government which actively sought to outlaw such practices.

Pushed on the platform of providing a ‘mandate’, presenting a united democratic front with which to approach the Brexit negotiations with, is surely a move welcomed by a left seemingly obsessed with democratic practice. However, while the calling of a snap election (and an increasingly inevitable conservative victory) may undoubtedly provide a stronger platform for our European ‘divorce’ negotiations, a strong Conservative majority may simultaneously symbolise a coup de grâce for any meaningful opposition in the near future.

With an opposition in crisis, this is an election which feels disturbingly like a capitalisation on circumstance by a Tory government, calling an election after explicitly refuting the possibility of one in the wake of the EU referendum. This is an election which (if the polls are to be believed), may give way to a wave of more controversial Conservative policy, something we’ve already seen with the speculated plans for the reintroduction of fox hunting.

Thomas Gravatt, Liberal Democrat Society President, 2016-17:

The right time for Theresa May to call an election would have been last July when she became leader of the Conservative Party. She instead governed for nearly a year without the democratic consent of the people, and began implementing an agenda that had not been approved by the electorate.

From her perspective, it is the perfect time to call an election. With the Labour Party drawing its final breaths, and her own party claiming nearly 50% support in the polls, we are looking at a Conservative landslide. Labour under Corbyn are unprepared and unable to oppose the Conservatives, let alone govern the country.

For the Liberal Democrats, the election has come at a reasonably good time. We had already selected candidates in anticipation of an election by the end of last year (even though May pledged there wouldn’t be one). We are presenting ourselves as an alternative to Labour’s incompetence and the Conservatives’ uncaring recklessness over Brexit and the economy.

We plan to put a penny on income tax to raise an additional £6 billion per year to fund the NHS, social care, and mental health services properly. The Lib Dems are a party with coherent plans ready to govern on June 8th.

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Wessex Scene Politics Editor 2016/17
Modern History and Politics Student

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