British PM calls for early election

Published: April 18, 2017
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May called on Tuesday for an early election on June 8, saying she needed to strengthen her hand in divorce talks with the European Union by bolstering support for her Brexit plan.

Standing outside her Downing Street office, May said she had been reluctant to ask parliament to back her move to bring forward the poll from 2020. But, after thinking ‘long and hard’ during a walking holiday, she decided it was necessary to try to stop the opposition ‘jeopardising’ her work on Brexit.

Some were surprised by May’s move – the Conservative prime minister has repeatedly said she does not want to be distracted by campaigning – but opinion polls give her a strong lead and the British economy has so far defied predictions of a slowdown.

Growth is faster than expected, consumer confidence is high and unemployment low, but the economy may be poised to pass its peak as consumers start to feel the strain from rising prices.

“It was with reluctance that I decided the country needs this election, but it is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond,” May said.

PM says Britain uniting around Brexit

“Before Easter I spent a few days walking in Wales with my husband, thought about this long and hard, and came to the decision that to provide that stability and certainty for the future that this was the way to do it, to have an election,” she told ITV news.

May called US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders after the announcement, a spokesman said, without giving details of the conversations.

May is capitalising on her runaway lead in the opinion polls and she could win around 100 additional seats in parliament.

A survey conducted after May’s announcement put her Conservative Party 21 points ahead of the main opposition Labour Party.

The ICM/Guardian poll of 1,000 people showed Conservative support at 46 per cent, with Labour on 25 per cent and the Liberal Democrats on 11 per cent. May’s personal ratings also dwarf those of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with 50 per cent of those asked by pollster YouGov saying she would make the best prime minister. Corbyn wins only 14 per cent. Reuters

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