Vidya Ram

British Parliament backs snap poll

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 15, 2018

British Prime Minister Theresa May

Britain is set to go to the polls on June 8 after an overwhelming majority of MPs backed Prime Minister Theresa May’s call to hold a general election on that date. On Wednesday, 522 MPs voted in favour of the motion.

With just 13 votes against, this easily exceeded the two-thirds threshold needed for the government to be able to overrule legislation that had required elections to be held at regular five-year intervals, beginning in 2015. The vote comes just a day after May caught the country — and most political commentators — off guard with her call for an election, to secure political “unity” as the country prepares for detailed negotiations on exiting the European Union.

The broad contours of the electoral debate likely to unfold in coming months began to emerge during Prime Minister’s Questions and the debate held just ahead of the vote, as leaders and significant figures across the political spectrum sought to clarify their views. May reiterated her reasons for holding an election, insisting that political divisions in Westminster risked weakening Britain’s hand in the negotiations with Europe. The election would enable the parties to “make our respective cases to the country and then to respect the result and the mandate it provides to give Britain the strongest possible hand in the negotiations to come.” She accused Labour of having economic policies that would “bankrupt” the economy.

Labour, on the other hand, sought to play on the U-turn made by May over the holding of a general election. Just last month, her official spokesperson categorically insisted that no election would take place. “This is a Prime Minister who promised that there wouldn’t be one. A Prime Minister who cannot be trusted,” said Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. “We welcome the opportunity of a general election because it gives the British people the opportunity to vote for a Labour government that will put the interests of the majority first,” as he attacked government policy on health, education and welfare. “Why are there tax giveaways to the richest corporations while our children’s schools are starved of the resources they need to educate our children for the future?”

The Liberal Democrats attacked the Prime Minister’s decision to rule out taking part in televised debates ahead of the election. “This election can change the direction of our country, from the consequences of a potential hard Brexit outside the single market to the future of our NHS and social care, our schools and our environment,” said Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron. “What is she scared of,” he asked.

Recent polls have given the Conservatives a comfortable lead: one conducted by YouGov on the 12-13 April found that 44 per cent supported the Conservatives, against 23 per cent for Labour and 12 per cent for the Liberal Democrats.

Published on April 19, 2017

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