Why Theresa May is right to call an early election and who will be the winners and losers of it

At 11:15am on this cold, Tuesday morning, surprise and shock spread across the recruitment office I work in, as the news started to seep through. Yes, we had just found out that Harry Redknapp had been made manager of Birmingham City. But just before we could recover from the news that one man was going to make Deadline Day great again, we find out that Theresa May had called a new election. At this point, on my desk, group chats meant my phone was vibrating so much it could be used in adult films, twitter exploded which a mixture of attempts of wittiness and annoyance, and people at work stopped working (well only for 5 minutes, as even in the days like this you can always count on an office to produce political apathy).

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‘Arry Announcing that he is running for Prime Minister with the promise to build a statue of Nico Kranjcar outside Downing Street

One of my friends questioned where the logic of an election at this point was. Indeed, it is true that Mrs May could crush Labour more if Corbyn is still leader in 2020, and this is damage limitation, and that a sudden election when the Tory election machine wasn’t prepared for it could backfire. However, from where I see it, Mrs May has timed this decision perfectly.

Firstly, as unfortunately everything is at the minute, Brexit has a huge reason for throwing this election. Firstly, by 2020, The Conservatives, particularly with the incompetence of the hardcore Brexiteers, may have made a dogs meal of the negotiations and could leave the Conservatives vulnerable to a loss, even if Corbyn is still leader of Labour. May also wants a mandate to govern, which would hopefully allow her to put forward a more moderate position on Brexit and weaken the likes of Liam Fox and David Davis, who are currently dragging Britain into a downright silly position of denial that there is any danger within the next 2 years. Currently the extreme Brexiteers are getting away with this due to the Conservative’s tiny majority and that if May was to question them, due to the fact she voted Remain, they could easily turn on her quickly, or become as John Major would put it, “the Bastards” who will stab her in the back.  The news that those individuals power could be weakened has already led to the pound to climb since the announcement of a new General Election.

The current political climate also suits May’s party. With Labour and UKIP both competing on who are the most incompetent, the Conservatives can in theory clear up many of the votes from those two parties and grow its majorities, which, as mentioned earlier, would limit the amount of disruption on policy. Since 2015 this government have been the most incompetent in my lifetime, and more MP’s would help them actually to be able to do anything which is not to do with Brexit. On the same note, May needs a new manifesto to create a mandate to put her own agenda through. Currently, with in particular Grammar Schools and the u-turn on NIC’s, when the May administration wants to do something different to Cameron which could upset some in her own party, a back bencher yell “you’re breaking a manifesto pledge” and she drops it faster than Red Bull dropped Danil Kvyat last season. If she had her own manifesto, she could then put forward her own policies, rather than spending another 3 years treading water and failing to get anything done. I have seen some share the Vice article titled “look at all the awful things the government has done since Brexit”, but if you look down at it, compared what a government with an opposition in disarray should have achieved, the list of things they have done can be only described as a disappointment.

As noted, Labour will suffer, knowing they are literally losing votes left right and centre, and I predict if the Election goes ahead they will lose in the region of 50 seats. UKIP will also fail to get elected, and the hilarity of their situation will be the one ray of light in the gloomy outlook of British politics.  One thing that May has not taken into account is the rise of my party, the Liberal Democrats, who since Brexit have seen their membership grow by over 20,000, and a further 1000 in one hour after this election was announced. The Lib Dems have already showed that our pro-EU strategy has paid dividends in Local Elections and in particular by-elections, and are already predicted to get 200 extra Local council seats in May As well as taking 400,000 Labour votes since the last election, 40% of those who have joined the Lib Dems voted for the Conservatives last time out. Knowing that over 20 of the seats the Lib Dems lost in 2015 went to the Tories, and with the view of what happened in Richmond Park, Lynton Crosby, the Tory election strategists, has warned May that the Lib Dems could take up to 30 Conservative seats. Just if Labour had Keir Stammer or Clive Lewis, there could be an opportunity to beat the Tories right now with the Progressive Alliance with that level of Liberal Democrat threat.

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Picture: Liberal Democrats

Instead of Stammer or Lewis, Labour has Corbyn, so expect the Tories to end up with close to 400 seats, with Labour on around 150, the Lib Dems on around 45, the SNP to still dominate Scotland, and the rest of the minnows to stick in their own status quo. Of course, legally there shouldn’t be an election until 2020 so this conversation could and should simply be academic, funny how opportunity always seems to trump principle in Politics.

 

Coming up on Rudrum Ramblings:

Inevitable criticism of the incoming Conservative manifesto

The Comedy section (UKIP)

Probably a last minute plead to vote for Progressive Parties

The obligatory angry post following the election result

How Brexit has made the Liberal Democrats relevant again

Immediately after the 2015 General Election, the Liberal Democrats looked like a spent force. They had lost a clear identity or clear message apart from being somewhere in an already crowded centre ground. They had also lost credibility after the broken promise on tuition fees, and most significantly, had lost the youthful, leftist support that the party enjoyed during the New Labour governments, and with it, its purpose, relevance and power base. Even in 2016, things didn’t look rosy, as Tim Farron’s vision of rooting his party in the centre-ground was hardly inspiring people to back his party or to take its threat remotely seriously.

However, since the Brexit vote, The Liberal Democrats have regained their voice, and have been winning back support. Membership has gone up to past the 80,000 mark (being under 60,000 at the beginning of 2016), their support share in the polls has increased from being around 7 points to 12 -14 in average polling, and most importantly, they are simply winning more votes. In local elections, the Lib Dems have taken back some of the councils they lost in the coalition governments. In the Richmond Park (which they won) and Witney by-elections, the Lib Dems picked up more than 20% of the total vote share compared to their vote share in the general election. Even in the highly pro-Brexit Sleaford, the Lib Dems gained 5% more of the total vote share than they achieved in 2015.

I have been a member of the Lib Dems since 2015, and to be honest up until October I was almost embarrassed to admit it. I joined in the belief that Liz Kendall would win the Labour Leadership Election (lol), and also for a personal admiration for Norman Lamb, the North Norfolk MP known for his important work and understanding on mental health issues, who was running for leader. After the election of Tim Farron, I decided to stay in the party due to my doubts of Corbyn. But recently, as being a Lib Dem has became seemingly a respectable political position again, I have became more confident in my support of the party.

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Trivia: Dappy from N Dubz backed Norman Lamb for Lib Dem leader, DAPPY (Photo: ITV)

On my social media feeds I have seen some people who were a year ago Corbynistas, or at least hardcore Labour voters, show their intentions to join the Lib Dems in recent weeks. One example of this is Courtney, a 21 year old Music Technology student. Courtney joined the Labour Party in 2015, but on Thursday told me that he was handing his membership card in to join the Lib Dems. “Well it’s been born completely out of a frustration with Corbyn, and the Labour party in general not acting like a strong opposition to a pretty ruthless Tory cabinet.” when asked about if the issue of Brexit and Europe has led to him making such a decision Courtney did confirm this was the case. “Definitely, seeing Corbyn ordering for Labour MPs vote for article 50 was pretty gutting and being pro-EU definitely helps push me in the direction of Lib Dems now.”

With Labour having absolute no clue on its position, and the Conservatives and UKIP treating anyone who still would like to remain in the EU as 2nd class citizens who for some reason don’t deserve an opinion, the Liberal Democrats are the only party representing those left behind following the referendum last year. The Lib Dems have always been the most pro-EU party, and their unapologetic pro-EU position has given the party a sense of purpose and relevance again. The rise of authoritarianism around the Western World has also helped the sense of purpose the Lib Dems currently have, as it puts their opposition to Brexit in a wider framework of protecting Liberal values.

Of course, not backing Brexit is a short term electoral strategy for the party, one which is designed to give the party voice again at the same time as staying consistent to Liberal values. The long term strategy must be to consolidate the rise of support by defending Liberal values. With authoritarianism on the rise, the need for a Liberal party is more important than it has been in over 50 years. The events of the last 12 months has made liberals like myself doubt the previous consensus that Liberalism had won the battle of ideas, now it is time to win that fight again. Furthermore, with the innovative and progressive mental health and drug policy ideas within the policy agenda (both spearheaded by Lamb), the Lib Dems are not just a one issue party, but a real alternative to Conservative England while Labour are busy fighting among each other.

In more Authoritarian countries, you find greater inequality, poverty, human rights abuses than Liberal countries, this is a message the Liberal Democrats, and indeed for that matter, Labour, have to carry over, to offer a real opposition to the dire situation the country is heading towards.