During a surprise announcement outside Downing Street on the morning of 18th April, Theresa May set the date of the next UK general election as the 8th June 2017, almost three full years before the previously expected date of May 2020.
Delivering the statement revealing the move, Mrs May said that the early general election would further deliver the ‘certainty, stability and strong leadership’, which she said the Conservative party had offered since the referendum on Britain’s EU membership. The Prime Minister elaborated to say that, ‘the country was coming together, but Westminster was not’, a reference to the fact that, despite the referendum result, the Conservatives still face opposition within Parliament on what so-called ‘Brexit’ should look like, or even whether it should still take place at all.
The Prime Minister addressed this point directly, saying that she was ‘not prepared’ to let those who oppose Brexit ‘endanger the security of millions of working people across the country. What they are doing jeopardises the work we must do to prepare for Brexit at home.’ Mrs May went on to say that, ‘we need a general election and we need one now, because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this [a general election] done whilst the European Union agrees its negotiating position.’
Addressing the fact that she had previously said the next general election would not be before the May 2020 date, Mrs May said that she had ‘only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion.’ The Prime Minister said that she now felt that a general election was ‘the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead… and to seek your support for the decisions I must take.’
Speaking directly to her political rivals, the Prime Minister said that she had a simple challenge to them: ‘this is your moment to show you mean it… let the people decide.’
Analysts were quick to point out that the election gives Mrs May the chance to increase her party’s majority in the House of Commons. The Conservative’s majority has been slim for some time now, which is causing Mrs May a level of discomfort when it comes to shaping Brexit. Though the general election does give her party the chance to make gains – against opposition which currently trails in the opinion polls – it also gives Labour and the Liberal Democrats the chance to shape their own arguments around Brexit. Many of the seats held by Labour, in particular, are still considered ‘safe’ seats which may limit the gains available to the Conservatives, though whether anything is truly ‘safe’ in political terms any more is a matter for some debate!
In the run up to the announcement, the pound fell against the dollar which helped the FTSE 100 to rise from losses made earlier in the day. After the announcement, however, the FTSE fell again, whilst the pound recovered, showing that not only is a week a long time in politics, but a fifteen minute announcement is a long time for the markets!
We will be sure to keep you fully informed of all of the details in the run up to the election and how the outcomes could impact you and your financial planning, both now and into the future.