You could have knocked me over with a feather. When a resident in Fishmore strolled down his drive this morning to say that Theresa May had called a general election, I couldn’t take it in. After all, she had only recently said there would be no elections until 2020.
I guess she had a bad Easter. I distrust her motives. She wants to crush the opposition and thereby crush democratic debate.
Whatever the reasons for Theresa May’s volte-face, we are facing a general election on 8 June.
I don’t blame Theresa May for changing her mind. It is only lousy politicians that stick to the same line regardless of circumstances.
But May is blaming opposition parties for her own weakness in negotiating Brexit. In her speech in Downing Street this morning, she omitted to mention the problems she has within her own party. She is looking for an easy ride rather than facing up to a tough opposition that challenges her every move. Having announced the election, she is shying away from the debate. Tory sources say she will not take part in TV debates or extended interviews.
The Fixed Term Parliament Act was meant to create political stability. It aimed to give politicians enough time to get on with the job without the constant nag of a snap election. But now May says political stability can only be achieved if we hold an election right now. The Act has fallen at its first hurdle. It is as dead as a dodo. That death will stifle democratic debate.
There can be nothing cosy about our exit from the EU. There can be nothing private about it.
Every line of every plan, policy and legislation for Brexit must be challenged. Both in parliament and in public. That’s the way our democracy works.
But May wants a House of Commons where everything and anything she says goes. She wants MPs who cheer her rather than challenge her.
That is bad for democracy.
Political pundits and journalists will spend the next few weeks arguing endlessly about why May decided to go to the electors. Then historians will take over. Ultimately, they will judge whether Cameron and May tipped our country into the social and economic abyss or saved it.
That contrast, between disaster and salvation, is currently a false one. In any political and economic negotiations, there is a middle ground. That is why it is time to fight for a constructive stance to Brexit. We must stop digging our heels in and dig deep for the best deal we can get for Britain’s future.
That means building consensus across the political spectrum.
What we have seen today from Theresa May is that she is only interested in confrontation.