Theresa May has just called a very unexpected general election to go ahead in June, and anyone who’s seen an opinion poll lately will know there's little hope for anyone knocking the Tories from power.
Labour has become a joke, even among its own MPs, since the leadership coup last year. The Liberal Democrats have barely been able to crawl from the hole of insignificance they buried themselves before their time in the coalition government even came to an end in 2015.
But this is 2017, and no one – absolutely no one – can pretend to have the foresight to predict what will happen. Nevertheless, party leaders have given their initial responses – which will shape how they position themselves in this very truncated fight for leadership of not only the UK, but Brexit negotiations.
Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader and Scottish first minister has called May’s announcement “one of the most extraordinary U-turns in recent political history,” a “huge miscalculation,” and one which “shows that Theresa May is once again putting the interests of her party ahead of those of the country”.
Sturgeon and May met last month, when May rejected Sturgeon’s calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence, on the grounds it would take focus away from Brexit negotiations.
Sturgeon says May is:
Clearly betting that the Tories can win a bigger majority in England given the utter disarray in the Labour party.
This is difficult to argue against. May was pressurised to call a general election when she was first put into Number 10 in July last year, so she could earn a mandate while Labour were weakened by the fallout created by Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s leader.
She denied plans to do so, and the idea was soon dropped. Now, Corbyn is polling disastrously low, and there's nothing else to indicate why now.
Sturgeon says the election in June will be about “standing up for Scotland,” against the Tories, who have:
No mandate in Scotland but which now thinks it can do whatever it wants and get away with it.
Corbyn welcomes the election, and says Labour will offer:
An effective alternative to government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS.
Whether this is the case, many voters will take some convincing. Labour has been criticised for not offering an effective opposition, with Brexit negotiations and beyond.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has already aligned the party as the pro-remain choice, for those who’d hoped for, at the very least, a softer Brexit than the direction unfolding under May. He says:
If you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the single market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance.