The Reality of the British Snap Elections

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Political Observation

The Reality of the British Snap Elections

Although the British prime minister Theresa May had stated that there would be not be a general election until 2020, she unexpectedly announced her intention to hold a snap general election on 18 April 2017.

May justified her decision by stating "division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty... So we need a general election and we need one now."

Immediately after the announcement, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish prime minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the decision . Writing on Twitter, Mr Cameron said: "Brave - and right - decision by PM Theresa May." A day later, Westminster voted by an overwhelming majority (522-13) in favour of a snap election. Hence, what are the denotations of this consensus among Britain's leaders to hold a snap election? And more importantly, what does Theresa May intend to achieve from this election?

Despite this general consensus among Britain's leaders on the snap election, they however differ on the objectives they seek from it. The Labour leader hopes to exploit the election to put an end to the state of weakness his party has been experiencing by rallying the ranks and focusing his attack on the government's cuts to the public sector, NHS education and pensions. Corbyn has pledged to reverse the "rigged system" and "hand back wealth and control to people and communities." As for the second issue in Labour's campaign, it will focus on exploiting the resentment among the youth and urban residents because of Brexit. Corbyn also vowed to "prove the establishment experts wrong and change the direction of this election."

As for the Scottish National Party (SNP), it is known that the majority in Scotland voted against Brexit; this is why Nicola Sturgeon hopes the election will bring a government in favour of a fresh referendum on Scotland's independence as Theresa May refuses to entertain such an issue which she deems ill-timed. And should the forthcoming government refuse to hold a referendum, Sturgeon hopes the so-called "Scottish solution" will be taken into account, namely that Scotland remains a member within the EU and at the same time part of the UK despite Brexit.

As for Theresa May, she is attempting to exploit the weakness of the Labour party to increase the parliamentary majority of her party, which is currently 17. May is hoping to bank on recent opinion polls suggesting that the Tories are 21% in the lead (46/25), whereas the Liberal Democrats stand at 11% and UKIP at 8%. Hence May is endeavouring to shore up the position of the Conservatives in political and parliamentary life to end the deep division in parliament which reflects the post-Brexit deep societal split . Besides, Theresa May is anointed rather than elected as Prime Minister and this places her in an awkward position within her party and the government. Hence, she aims to achieve popular legitimacy enabling her to form a government capable of legislating draconian laws in economic and domestic policy and imposing its conditions in the Brexit negotiations. Theresa May, who said "Brexit means Brexit", realises that in the absence of a strong government, she risks failing in the negotiations to exit the EU. She told the BBC that opposition parties wanted to "frustrate the Brexit process." She added that “a general election is the best way to strengthen Britain’s hand in the negotiations ahead.”

It is clear that the major EU countries, especially Germany and France, wish to be stringent with Britain in the negotiations and want her to pay up to £60 billion in return for a trade deal. The EU wants this stringency to act as a deterrent for any other European country envisaging leaving the EU in the future.

In addition to this challenge, Britain is facing an economic upheaval with London losing its status as Europe’s financial heart. This nightmare scenario has led Theresa May to warn the EU that failure in reaching a trade deal with Europe could undermine security cooperation between Britain and Europe. EU officials were up in arms over May's statement and foreign secretary Boris Johnson was forced to retract her statement and declare that security cooperation between Britain and Europe was unconditional. Nevertheless. Theresa May wanted through her statement to flex her muscles and assume the role of Britain's second "Iron Lady" after Margaret Thatcher, especially as she had come from the Home Office. Yet, despite all the show of force Theresa May is displaying in her relationship with the EU and all the opportunist factors she is exploiting against her opponents from among the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, the outcome of the election remains uncertain. Her opponents, whom she dubbed as the "coalition of chaos" are endeavouring to raise Brexit as a part of the electoral battle in their bid to win votes by mobilising the youth and the urban citizens who did not partake in the Brexit referendum in force.

The Brexit issue and the relevant strings attached to it, together with Scotland's threat to seek independence, the sterling’s slump, the snap election and the shuttle trips to America, Turkey, the Gulf States, Africa and Asia to secure trade deals, indicates yet again to what extent Britain has weakened in domestic and foreign politics.

Note:

It is imperative for a Muslim politician to monitor the policies of influential states and international blocs, or the states that aim to influence the international scene, especially the Islamic region. Britain for instance had the worst record in bringing calamity to the Muslims' lands. She was very instrumental in destroying the Islamic State in 1918 and announcing it in 1924. Despite her weakness and the sharp decline in her influence in the international situation, Britain's policies, together with similar blocs and states, should however be monitored; their strengths and weaknesses must be observed as well as any potential resurging influence on world politics and the Muslims' lands. We should also monitor the unfolding events in respect of what is being concluded in terms of agreements between Britain and the EU regarding Britain's exit from Europe and its impact on both Britain and the EU.

29 Rajab 1438h

26 April 2017