Snap poll set for 8 June
Theresa May seeks General Election ‘to unify Britain’
Theresa May today called for a General Election on 8 June to ‘unify Britain’ and to secure the ‘strong leadership’ the country needs.
She said she will present a motion to the Commons tomorrow and will seek the two-thirds majority required to support it.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn later offered the government his party’s support meaning she is almost certain to get the majority she needs to call a poll.
In an unscheduled statement outside 10 Downing St, the Prime Minister said there were divisions in the country caused by the SNP, Labour, LibDems and the Lords who were “game playing” by opposing her moves to negotiate on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
She said the country needed “certainty, stability and strong leadership” following the EU referendum.
“The country is coming together but Westminster is not,” she said.
Criticising the tactics of the government’s opponents, she said: “If we don’t hold a general election now their political game playing will continue.
“So we need a general election and we need one now. We have at this moment a one off chance to get this done.”
Mrs May has not been in favour of an early poll, but recent polls show the Conservatives 20 points ahead of Labour which is bound to have encouraged to change her mind.
She indicated in her speech that the EU talks would run into campaigning for the scheduled general election in 2020. A victory on 8 June would give her a new term lasting until 2022.
The Conservative government is also struggling with a tiny majority in the Commons and if the polls are correct Mrs May can expect to build a stronger position in order to push through her legislative programme.
She said: “I have concluded the only way to guarantee certainty and security for years ahead is to hold this election.”
Mrs May will require the support of 429 MPs and although Mr Corbyn has given his support some Labour MPs know that they could be out of a job on 9 June.
Mr Corbyn said it was an opportunity to give the country an alternative government.
He said: “I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first.
“Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS.
“In the last couple of weeks, Labour has set out policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country. We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain.”
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron tweeted: “This is your chance to change the direction of your country. If you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the single market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance.
“Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority.”
The FTSE 100 fell by more than 100 points in the hour after the announcement.
The pound initially fell sharply breaking its upward trend that had hit a three-week high. However, it strengthened significantly, surpassing the early morning levels.
SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Theresa May would seek to push the country further to the right.
Ms Sturgeon said: “This announcement is one of the most extraordinary U-turns in recent political history, and it shows that Theresa May is once again putting the interests of her party ahead of those of the country.
“She is clearly betting that the Tories can win a bigger majority in England given the utter disarray in the Labour Party.
“That makes it all the important that Scotland is protected from a Tory Party which now sees the chance of grabbing control of government for many years to come and moving the UK further to the right – forcing through a hard Brexit and imposing deeper cuts in the process.
“That means that this will be – more than ever before – an election about standing up for Scotland, in the face of a right-wing, austerity obsessed Tory government with no mandate in Scotland but which now thinks it can do whatever it wants and get away with it.
“In terms of Scotland, this move is a huge political miscalculation by the Prime Minister.
“It will once again give people the opportunity to reject the Tories’ narrow, divisive agenda, as well as reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists for giving the people of Scotland a choice on their future.
“The SNP will always put the people of Scotland first – and between now and June 8th we will work harder than ever to retain the trust of the people.”
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said it would be a straight fight between the SNP and Tories in Scotland.