THE HOUSE OF COMMONS has voted by 522 votes to 13 to dissolve Parliament on the basis that a General Election will be held on Thursday, 8th June.
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, argued that the Election was necessary because she needed an electoral mandate to negotiate the Brexit deal – a theory rather less credible than the concept of the tooth fairy (whose existence is at least in line with the evidence she leaves).
•The Government received a mandate to carry out Brexit last June – and reacted by hanging about and having a think about it for several months before lurching into action and moving Article 50.
•The fact that the electorate has given the Tory Government a firmer mandate (if this proves to be what happens) is hardly going to impress Brussels bureaucrats who are quibbling over fishing quotas and passport controls. They have no organic link to the UK electorate and a General Election outcome offers no material leverage to the negotiations in hand.
The mandate Theresa May is really seeking is, of course, a mandate to stop the opposition parties in the House of Commons expecting to scrutinise what she is doing. She has realised there’s going to be some dodgy dealing to do in the months ahead. Opposition parties are going to be right in there in the Commons Chamber, pointing out the contradictions, criticising negotiating failures – and pointing out who will suffer from the deals she is stitching up.
The result of having held a General Election will be, she hopes, that she can just deflect criticism by chanting that she’s got the mandate, she’s got the mandate – like one of those annoying children who keeps repeating what you say, even to the point of echoing your requests that they stop.
A General Election, May hopes, will also silence the critics on her own back benches. A number of her Grumblies will not be standing again: any that remain will also be silenced by being reminded of her mandate, she hopes.
All this may work for May – as long as she wins the gamble of having called the Election. However, a Prime Minister cannot dictate the terms of a General Election any more than they can dictate the date. There will be plenty of voters who, fed up with the prolonged agony over Brexit, will be weighing up who to vote for on the basis of who will safeguard the NHS, provide housing options, fund schools and social care – and won’t join in adventurous military projects that may kick off World War III.