It’s fairly clear why Theresa May chose to call a General Election. Twelve months ago Conservative and Labour were tied but in the last twelve months the Tories have opened up a 20 point lead. It’s difficult to see how that can be eroded in just 7 weeks.
There are a few questions that leap out. We have just 23 months to sort the Brexit negotiations and two of them will now be taken up with domestic politics. The government was in power with a working majority until May 2020 so the election isn’t necessary and it is a distraction. An election could have been called months ago when the Tories had a comfortable 16 point lead. That way it would have been done and dusted before Article 50 was triggered . So why now?
Is Gorton a factor? The Gorton by-election set for May 4th is highly unlikely to now take place because Parliament will be in recess. The elected candidate would not be able to take their seat. A recent report in The Observer suggested it was a two horse race between Labour and the LibDems with 82% of the vote between them. With the Greens getting almost 10% last time round and George Galloway standing as an independent there was a very real chance the Conservatives would lose their deposit.
Perhaps even more worrying for the Prime Minister is the fact that 12 police forces passed files to the Crown Prosecution Service in recent months over allegations Conservative MPs broke local spending limits at the last general election. Around 20 MPs are said to be under scrutiny. If any cases were to go to court not only would it be highly embarrassing it could erode the party’s working majority which stands at just 17. Was that a factor?
Update 19.03 18.4.17 – The CPS has told Channel Four News that 30 individuals are under investigation.