We all woke up to some surprising news this morning. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has called an election in June, just a few weeks away. She could have stayed on until 2020, under the rules in the UK, but instead has chosen to put her policies, and her un-elected leadership, to the voters of Britain, three years early.
The BBC reports this as a ‘surprise decision’, and as you might imagine, there is nothing else being reported in our media at the moment. But is it a surprise? Well, not to me at least, and I suspect that anyone who spends any amount of time being interested in politics is unlikely to be surprised either.
There has rarely been a time in this country when the opposition to the sitting government has been less effective. With the constant attacks on the leader of the official opposition, The Labour Party, by almost every media source, and many in his own party, it appears unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn has any hope of winning. If he does fail to do so, he will probably be forced out anyway. The Liberal Democrats also have their least effective leader in decades, so are not going to pose any threat. As for the nationalists, UKIP, their only elected members are deserting that party as fast as they can get their jackets fastened, and they have little impact in this country anymore.
As for the Scottish Nationalists, they will continue to go on about independence, Brexit, and asking for another referendum. They may enjoy a huge majority in their own country, but have little effect on the UK overall. The Conservatives enjoy one of their biggest leads in the polls for a very long time. Despite all the hoo-hah about Brexit, and talk of a ‘divided nation’, we have to face the fact that the current Conservative government is generally regarded to be doing a good job of running the country, like it or not.
In 2016, we all saw that polls could no longer be trusted though. The June election might appear to be a done deal already, with Mrs May sweeping back into power, confident in her popularity.
But you never know. Not any more…
We are about to see a new resident in Number Ten Downing Street. Tomorrow, David Cameron goes to pastures new, (and no doubt very prosperous pastures too) leaving his post, and handing over the most important job in the UK to Theresa May, the current Home Secretary. She will become the second woman to hold this office in the UK, the first being the reviled Margaret Thatcher. Let’s hope that she is not planning on becoming a ‘Thatcher 2: The Sequel.’
After a brief but acrimonious leadership election, it was always her that was the favourite to win. Despite some slurs about her not relating to families because she has no children, she kept her nerve, and was an easy winner. Her political pedigree is second to none, and she has held many important cabinet posts since she was first elected as a member of parliament, in 1997. She is known for her tough stance on some issues, and for a liberal opinion on others, including support of same-sex marriage. Naturally, I hold no brief for this woman. She is a Conservative, and I dislike them all, by default. They are friends of business, big money interests, and the preservation of the status quo. They have little interest in ordinary working-class people, and tend to revel in the age of Empire, surrounded by fluttering Union flags. Despite her own position of wishing to Remain in the EU, she now represents a party that voted overwhelmingly to Leave.
Of course, the voters of this country had no choice about who would become their next Prime Minister. Like many before her, she was foisted upon us, by an electoral system that has gone unchanged for decades. In the UK, we vote for a local member of parliament, not for a leader; a person to take charge of the country, and to be its political figurehead. In the last century, half of those who became the Prime Minister did so by being elected leader of their party after the death or resignation of their predecessor, and not as the result of a general election. So, nothing unusual about Mrs May, and her rise to power. As all this is going on, the so-called Opposition, the Labour Party, is also torn apart by a challenge to its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Like Theresa May, Corbyn was the choice of the party members all over the country. And like her, he was not the natural choice of his fellow members of parliament.
Whatever the outcome, it is certain that the opposition parties will remain weak and divided. They have little to offer in the way of solid policies to counter the current Conservative regime, and remain locked in a cycle of remonstrations and regrets about the possibility of departure from the EU, as the whole party campaigned for a Remain vote. As long as they fail to show solidarity, to get behind the elected leader they already have, they are unlikely to unsettle someone as steely and determined as our new Prime Minister.
Theresa May was born in 1956, making her four years younger than me. I would say that she has a lot still left in her, at the age of 60. I have a bad feeling that we are going to have to get used to seeing her around for a very long time.