British PM Theresa May has suddenly called for general elections in June. Britain’s next general election was only due in 2020. May says she’s advanced elections to have public support when she begins talks with the EU over Brexit; discussions will include whether Britan stays in the European single market, the customs union and if EU migrants into Britain will be curtailed. These negotiations will decide a “soft” or “hard” Brexit; May wants the latter and says she needs the British public’s backing.
However, the public has already made its preferences clear, even if by a slender margin, in 2016’s Brexit referendum. Returning to the polls will only fatigue a nation that came to the brink last year. May knew she had two years from March 2017, when Article 50 was triggered, to manage EU negotiations. The people had voted — the job was in May’s hands. By seeking another election over Brexit, May may be calculating that with Labour and the Lib Dems in disarray, a Conservative victory is possible; a strong lead in Parliament could keep the Tories — and May — in power much longer.
But this is one election too many. Increasingly, as politics appears bereft of the energy to face tough debate — May says there’s division in Parliament over Brexit, but it is Parliament’s job to discuss and debate differences — or simply get down to work, a new call for elections is heard. Politicians’ sudden passion for elections, ostensibly over every public development, must be controlled, for this is an abdication of their responsibility to steer nations through change, without plunging voters into a sea of rough choices each time a challenge appears.
Using elections to push political ambitions showed in Turkey recently, where President Erdogan’s referendum changed the nation’s polity itself. May’s call could now bring fresh divisiveness to Britain. Significantly, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish National Party leader, has said this election will allow Scotland to negotiate exiting Britain, to join the EU. May could have bitten off more than she imagined.