General Election 2017
General Election 2017
A What You Need To Know Guide
The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, has called a general election for 8th June 2017 – this is three years earlier than the next one scheduled in 2020.
Mrs May’s official reason for holding an election is to strengthen her role in Brexit negotiations. She claims Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP will try to destabilise and frustrate the process in Parliament. But it is not that unusual for prime ministers who have smaller Commons majorities to hold an election to hold onto their power.
As things stand, it does not take many Conservative backbenchers (MPs who are not part of the government) to decide they don’t like something the government is doing to get it derailed. Mrs May’s party has a big opinion poll lead over Labour so she will be hoping the election will see her getting a bigger majority in the House of Commons.
Mrs May is also tied to the promises made by the Conservatives at the 2015 election, when David Cameron was prime minister. She has made a few changes, such as backing grammar schools and easing plans to reduce the deficit, but an election gives her the chance to set out her own vision for Britain.
Why a snap election?British prime ministers used to be free to hold a general election whenever they felt like it – but new laws passed by Mrs May’s predecessor David Cameron changed that. Under the 2011 Fixed Term Parliaments Act, a general election is supposed to take place every five years on the first Thursday in May. As the most recent general election was in 2015, the next one was scheduled for May 2020.
But an election can be called ahead of schedule for two reasons – if there is a vote of no confidence in the current government or if MPs vote for an early election by a two-thirds majority. Mrs May chose the second option, which was overwhelmingly backed by MPs, by 522 votes to 13.
Where do things currently stand?Currently the Conservatives are on a little under 43% compared with a little over 25% for Labour – a lead of more than 17%. This would translate into a comfortable win for Mrs May’s party at an election if that’s how people voted. The Liberal Democrats were on 10%, UKIP 11% and the Greens on 4%.
The Conservatives have 330 seats, Labour 229, the SNP 54, the Lib Dems nine and Plaid Cymru three. The Green Party has one MP. UKIP have no MPs after their sole representative left the party and became an independent. For Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party have eight MPs, Sinn Fein, who don’t take up their seats, four, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) three and the Ulster Unionist Party two. Five MPs sit as independents.
What does this mean for Brexit?Britain is still on course to officially leave the European Union on Friday, 29 March 2019.
Negotiations with other EU nations are not due to start until June meaning the election will probably be over and a new government in place before any serious talking gets under way in Brussels.
The Conservative Party says this is a “one-off chance to hold an election while the European Union agrees its negotiating position”. If Mrs May wins by a big margin in the UK she will see it as a vote of confidence in her strategy for leaving the EU. But if her slender House of Commons majority is cut further or she loses the election, with anti-Brexit parties such as the Liberal Democrats getting many more MPs, then the UK’s current Brexit strategy will be up for grabs.
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