On April 18, British Prime Minister Theresa May shocked her country by calling for a snap vote to be held on June 8. This vote essentially moves up the general election. It will dissolve Parliament — which is less than halfway through its standard five-year term — and allow the British people to elect new representatives. May had initially promised not to interfere with the normal election timeline, but called for the snap vote anyway citing the importance of a united Britain in the upcoming Brexit negotiations. This early vote will capitalize on the popularity of May’s Conservative Party and, according to current polling data, virtually guarantee an increase in Conservative Members of Parliament. Many have accused May of manipulating the system for the benefit her own party, and though this might be the case I believe that the early vote is also in the best interest of the British people.
In June of last year, the citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Today, whether or not this was the ‘best choice’ is beside the point. In a democracy, so long as no laws are broken and no rights are trampled on, the will of the people must be respected. In this case, the dominant will of the British people has been unequivocally expressed, leaving only the question of how to best implement their wishes.
Presently, leaders of the British Liberal Democrats and Scottish National parties are still strongly opposed to leaving the EU and the Labour party is resisting any Conservative agendas such as the push for a hard EU exit. With such a blatantly divided British front, May will not have much bargaining power when it comes to negotiating the terms of the exit with the EU. This lack of power could easily lead to unfavorable trade agreements, for the UK and a decline in their economic prosperity. Thus it makes sense to try to unite the parliament around the wishes of the British people before the negotiations truly get underway. With only two years to sort through and renegotiate a multitude of diplomatic agreements it is crucial that the British government agree on a desired result and swiftly execute a plan to realize it. If the ideal outcome continues to be debated internally then their ambiguity could leave them no other option than to accept the terms that the EU offers up.
Conducting a national election is not cheap. According to British Electoral Records, each election costs the taxpayers in excess of 113 million pounds, or just under 150 million dollars. However, an election that would occur anyways, would cost the UK less than 0.01 percent of its annual revenue, so the issue of fiscal costs is moot. Though May will almost certainly benefit from this election, it is still a bit of a gamble. A lot can happen between now and June 8 and as we have all witnessed, electorates can be unpredictable. Regardless of which way this election swings, it will be another chance for the people of the UK to express their opinions in light of the new information they have received in witnessing the initial implementation of the Brexit. If the country now wishes to preserve some ties between the United Kingdom in the EU than they may elect representatives in favor of a softer Brexit. But if the majority of the country still favors a hard Brexit under the Conservative party than this election will unite Westminster and present a stronger front to the EU in the negotiations.
Ultimately, though, calling a national vote in the hopes of increasing your party’s majority may seem immoral or even unnecessary since the public has already voted in favor of the referendum, it is actually a justifiable and wise political action. Though the majority of the electorate voted to leave the EU, British representatives may still feel a higher duty to the constituents that elected them and in some cases those constituents are supporters of the remain campaign. Attempting to create a more united government by allowing the people to elect politicians to represent their interests in these crucial negotiations, may be considered playing politics, but in this case what is best for the Conservatives also appears to be what is best for the nation.