Editorial

Will UK snap elections give Jamaican PM any ideas?

Sunday, April 23, 2017    

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British Prime Minister Theresa May’s declaration of June 8, 2017 as the date for the next general election in the United Kingdom (UK) represents a complete break with her public pledge not to call national elections before May 2020 when they are constitutionally due.

This departure was accomplished last Wednesday after she received and exceeded the threshold of two-thirds of the votes in Parliament required to override the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 by a count of 522 to 13 of the 650 Members of Parliament in the House of Commons.

The decision seemed to be aimed at increasing the majority of the Conservative Party before beginning in earnest the Brexit negotiations. The prime minister’s move was undoubtedly influenced by recent opinion polls showing that the Conservatives have a commanding 21-point lead over the Labour Party.

She needs to increase her party’s majority from the current 17 in order to strengthen the UK’s position in the Brexit negotiations and to pass in both chambers of Parliament the outcome of the negotiations. The clock is already running on the two-year negotiation period.


The general election is really a second referendum on leaving the European Union (EU) now that the Conservative Government has made public the goals it wants to attain in the Brexit negotiations. The Labour Party has locked itself into adhering to the wishes of the electorate, as expressed in the referendum of 2016. It is bereft of any new policies to proffer to the voters.

Results could confirm the new political landscape in the UK. The Conservatives are likely to win with an increased majority. The Liberal Democrats, we expect, will receive a life-saving boost from disaffected Labour Party votes, but not enough to give them many seats in Parliament. It could be devastating for the already divided Labour Party, which is mired in the contradictions of one of its periodic existential crises in which the traditional schizophrenia between the old democratic socialist trade union-based wing and the progressive liberal welfare state breaks out in open conflict. A loss, which seems inevitable because the Scottish Nationals will hold the seats that used to be sure Labour seats, will likely result in the removal of Mr Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

A win for the Conservatives is all the more likely because the uncertainty and economic fallout, while seen in the decline of sterling, have not yet hit the public, which seems to reassure people that Brexit will not be so bad in spite the dystopian scenarios voiced by expert opinion.

All this is not esoteric to Jamaica where the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) holds office on a one-seat majority. Anyone vacating a seat on the JLP side of the House, whether for health or political reasons, could prompt the prime minister to call a snap general election.

In any case, the PM may well be contemplating doing it now because the economy and tax issues could be lingering, and before Dr Peter Phillips has enough time to reenergise and reorganise the People’s National Party.

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