Theresa May announced early elections. Other observers had thought snap elections were unlikely earlier but some stars aligned to change the calculus:
Labour is particularly weak and divided right now; elections early are an opportunity to deliver a crushing blow.
Brexit popularity is at a recent high, so that will help shore up the Tory position.
May would get her own mandate.
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has tried to throw a curveball with the threat of a Scottish referendum, which Sturgeon was pushing to take place in 2019. Even though May has the power to say no, that move would hurt the Union and help the SNP. Given the Brexit timetable, the SNP’s timing for a referendum would have been 2019, which was uncomfortably close to the originally scheduled Parliamentary elections in 2020.
However, there are side effects:
A bigger Tory majority means the party has the luxury of being more internally divided. That may not be a plus as Brexit is revealed to be a losing proposition for the UK.
The campaign will distract the already too detached Tory leadership from Brexit duties.
Theresa May said she would ask Parliament to hold a general election so she can win a direct mandate to take the UK through the Brexit divorce with the EU.
The decision, which comes just three weeks after the prime minister began the formal Brexit process, stunned many British politicians as they returned from their Easter break…
Mrs May had previously said categorically that the next general election would be held as scheduled in 2020, and many Conservative backbenchers had shown little enthusiasm for a vote. “It isn’t going to happen. There is not going to be a general election,” her spokesman said on March 20.
Mrs May blamed opposition parties and the House of Lords for stalling her agenda and weakening her negotiation position with the EU. “The country is coming together but Westminster is not,” she said. “Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit.”
There’s not much informed commentary yet. If I am still up and some comes in soon, I will update the post.
Update 7:10 AM:
— The Long Read (@gdnlongread) April 18, 2017