Prime minister Teresa May calls surprise general election

The Times, 19 April 2017.

Theresa May is on course to win a majority of more than 100 in a June snap election, with Labour’s pro-Brexit voters deserting Jeremy Corbyn, according to polling data for The Times.

The prime minister ripped up her promise not to hold an election before 2020 yesterday. In a surprise announcement on the steps of Downing Street, she urged voters to hand her a Brexit mandate before formal talks with Brussels began.

The pound surged to a six-month high as the markets bet on the prospect of a softer Brexit, with experts claiming that a bigger majority would leave Mrs May less exposed to “right-wing factions” within her party.

Today the prime minister will begin a seven-week campaign with an attack on Mr Corbyn’s leadership at prime minister’s questions before a Commons vote that clears the way for a general election on June 8. Britain’s third national poll in as many years looks certain to bring a political realignment.

Mr Corbyn welcomed the election announcement, saying: “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.” The party looked forward to showing how it would “stand up for the people of Britain”.

Mrs May pitched her message to disaffected Labour voters, however, as she asked them to increase her working majority of 17. “Our opponents believe, because the government’s majority is so small, that our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change,” she said.

This morning she told the BBC’s Today programme that even if she succeeds in increasing her majority in the Commons there would still be room to debate the terms of Brexit.

She denied that she wanted to suffocate dissent, adding: “As we go through parliament with Brexit we will of course be challenged and there will of course be debate. But what the British people want is for the government to deliver on the vote they gave to leave the European Union, and that’s what we will do.”

Without a snap election, Mrs May said that “political game-playing” in Westminster would continue, with EU negotiations reaching their “most difficult stage” in the run-up to the previously scheduled 2020 vote. “Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit, and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country,” she said, adding that the period before formal talks offered a “one-off” chance to settle the country’s future.

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