Fickle or Cynical, Is May Cutting and Running Before Economic Turbulence?
The choice: Cynical May versus Deficient Corbyn
The announcement of a general election was the final nail in the coffin for Theresa May’s reputation as a cautious, prudent leader. After months and months of stating there would be no election, there is one. Add this to her about-turn on raising National Insurance for the self-employed and we’ve got a prime minister who can be described as fickle at best, cynical at worst.
May said she called this election because Parliament was blocking the Brexit process. Article 50 was passed by three-quarters of MPs and so the entire basis for an election is flatly untrue. Just weeks ago she declared that another Scottish independence referendum would be ‘divisive’ during Brexit talks. Now we have a whole general election on our hands.
In dismay, I left the Labour Party last week, and it would do well to hobble through this election. Perhaps it’s only silver lining is that it finally has a chance in the aftermath of defeat to bring to a close the experiment in political deficiency that has been Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Hopefully, on the June 9th it’ll have enough MPs left to make it a party worth re-joining.
There may be trouble ahead - expect economic turbulence
What does the prime minister’s decision to rush for a snap election tell us about the economy? The data since the June 2016 referendum showed that the economy and the financial markets outperformed the gloomy forecasts that the then pro-Remain Treasury put out ahead of the vote.
As well as offering an open goal to jubilant Brexiteers, the strength of the economy may also have stayed May’s hand in deciding not to call for a vote until now.
Chancellor Philip Hammond appears to be the only Cabinet minister inside the loop on May’s thinking ahead of her decision. It is fair to assume that the word from the Treasury’s beancounters is that the good times are over and that the economy was set to slow in the run up to the moment on Brexit and the scheduled general election a year later.
Short-term pointers indicate that economic growth is slowing, as consumer spending power is hit by higher import prices on the back of sterling’s fall over the past year or so.
Sharp falls in industrial production and construction output in February and a drop in exports in the same month pointed to overall annual economic growth slowing from 0.7% in the final quarter of 2016 to 0.4% in the first three months of 2017.
The uncertainty over the outcome of the negotiations and decisions by companies to cut back or relocate staff could add to the pain. By going to the voters in 2022 rather than 2020 means that May will not need to worry about the impact of Brexit on the economy for another four years
May Doesn’t Want Debates - But Not Because She Fears Corbyn
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May why, if she was so proud of her record, she would not debate with other leaders. He then ruined it by staying standing and talking about the deficit. He threw it away.
It took Yvette Cooper to show him how it was done - to Labour cheers.
Theresa May is scared of debates, yes. What she is not scared of is Jeremy Corbyn. His question encapsulated his problem: he has no facility for words. The exposure of a general election will further reveal this.
Theresa May is avoiding head-to-head debates because of the uncertainty. She has a twenty point lead: why take a risk? Yes, it is cynical. But it is a decision taken before by leaders Labour and Conservative.
What May truly fears is the threat posed by Tim Farron and Nicola Sturgeon, both of whom, in a two-party war, might be frozen out of everyday coverage.
The Scottish FM is a keen debater and can think on her feet. If the Nationalists secure enough votes at Westminster, a Scottish independence referendum becomes unavoidable.
Meanwhile, the threat to the Conservatives is not a disoriented Labour with its rambling leadership. It is Tim Farron, the new pin-up boy for Remainiacs. There are at least half a dozen seats that could fall to the Lib Dems on a modest swing.
Many Conservatives believe that giving Nick Clegg the oxygen of debates stopped the Conservatives getting a majority in 2010. Farron is not Clegg and May is not Cameron.
And since the Lib Dems stand a good chance of winning a few seats from Labour too, Corbyn should be thanking his lucky stars.
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