A snap general election will occur on June 8th and it has been met with cynicism; with leaders from other parties claiming it’s self-serving politics from the Conservatives, capitalising on the uncertainty from the EU referendum and seeking to gain from changes in political opinion across the UK.
Despite the rhetoric though, this general election could benefit most of the major parties, and if not, some will at least be in a better position now than in 2020.
Would Corbyn have been leader in 2020?
Firstly, this general election would suit the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. First elected in 2015, he has already endured a leadership challenge in 2016. He survived but opinion seems to be divided, even within his own party. Amongst the major parties, it was Corbyn who may have found it most difficult to survive until 2020 as leader. An early election has given him an opportunity, he might not have otherwise had, to fight a general election under his alternative vision for the UK’s future.
For his dissenters within the Labour party, this general election could be an opportunity to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Should things go badly for Labour at the general election, it may force Corbyn to resign; as Ed Miliband did in 2015. However, Corbyn has stated he would intend on remaining leader, whatever the result, which could dampen hopes of a leadership change – but a landslide could mean his position becomes untenable.
The Opportunistic Conservatives
Conservative leader and prime minister, Theresa May, claims an increased majority would provide her with a ‘stronger hand’ to negotiate with the European Union. However, with article 50 being triggered, the government are free to negotiate with the EU – and with proposals for a vote in parliament for the final deal being rejected – the outcome of the election will only affect EU negotiations if there is a result other than a Conservative majority. So, it could be said the Conservatives are capitalising on uncertainty over the EU, as increases in their majority would serve only to give them greater power in domestic politics. Therefore, it is right to consider the Conservatives as self-serving and opportunistic in calling the general election - but other parties can benefit.
The Liberal Democrats find their niche
The Liberal Democrats have campaigned largely in response to the decision last year to leave the European Union – offering a referendum on the final deal of negotiations, with an option to remain if the terms are unsatisfactory. If they had to wait until 2020, the UK would likely have already left the EU (the end of the two-year negotiation period ends in March 2019). Without an opportunity to capitalise on disgruntled ‘remain’ voters, they may have been in the political wilderness, still reeling from their U-turn on scrapping tuition fees.
The SNP can capitalise on divisions
The SNP, Scottish National Party, recognise the result to the EU referendum could further their cause towards a second independence referendum, because Scotland voted ‘remain’. They achieved Holyrood approval for a second independence referendum on 28th March 2017, but they’re yet to receive UK parliamentary backing.
A strong return in the 2017 general election could strengthen their mandate of seeking independence. In summary, a 2017 general election allows the SNP to capitalise on the divisions between other nations in the union following the outcome of the EU referendum.
UKIP clings on to relevance
UKIP, UK Independence Party, will perhaps perform the worst out of the parties listed. But whilst it is likely a 2017 general election won’t be successful for them, it won’t be any worse than the potential 2020 had to be.
Whilst uncertainty over the EU looms, UKIP still have a role of scrutinising negotiations that they perceive to defy the will of ‘leave’ voters. If the UK leave the EU in March 2019 with what is perceived as a satisfactory deal, UKIP would have no role to play in a 2020 general election. Therefore, a 2017 general election allows them to contest an election whilst still possibly having a role to play within UK politics.
In conclusion, whilst the 2017 general election was called to further Conservative goals in domestic politics, there are opportunities that benefit other parties. Cynical rhetoric highlighting a selfish government, for calling an election whilst there is much uncertainty, whilst true, comes off as excuses for parties to perform badly – when they should be using the unique opportunity of a general election so soon after a divisive referendum result, to campaign for their vision of change.
I am approaching the end of my first year of politics & international relations at Nottingham Trent University.
I am nineteen-years-old, so my first major vote was in the 2016 EU referendum, and my first general election vote will be in the 2017 general election.
I first became interested in politics when deciding what to do for A level. Whilst watching the coverage of the 2010 general election, I became fascinated in how the country was run.