Theresa May’s decision to call an early general election was an “abrupt reversal” of her earlier insistence that she wouldn’t hold one until 2020. But it is nevertheless “the right decision”, says the Financial Times. “Britain is embarking on the most important constitutional change in postwar history.” A strong mandate will help May remain on her current pragmatic course (recognising that a transitional period is required after Britain’s departure from the EU, and that migrants are needed) and lessen the risk of being “held hostage by minority pressure groups”.
An early election also means that May need not be “constrained” by a 2015 manifesto that was not her own, says The Sunday Times, and avoids the potential added complication of Brexit negotiations running up against a general election, as would have happened with a 2020 poll. This is an opportunity, particularly in policy terms, for the “real Mrs May to stand up”. As it stands, May is set for the biggest Tory win since Margaret Thatcher, with recent polls putting the Tories more than 20 points ahead of Labour, says Toby Gould in the Huffington Post.
This isn’t just down to the “useless and weak” opposition provided by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour (though it is “useless and weak”); her policies are generally well received and the public are confident she can make Brexit a success. There is also, however, a chance that “angry Remainers” could use this as an opportunity to “strike back through tactical voting”, says Ben Chu in The Independent, leaving a “configuration of results” that encourages May into a “more conciliatory position in the EU divorce and trade negotiations”.
What about Labour? The Sun is predicting that it could “kill off” the party, and the latest opinion polls imply a 7% swing to the Tories, which could see Labour’s 229 MPs reduced to just 165. The Tories would gain 66 seats to win a Commons majority of more than 140, says Alan Travis in The Guardian. If defeat prompts Corbyn to stand down, that would be “welcome”, says the Financial Times. “It would give the party a chance to rebuild.” Britain needs a strong prime minister to negotiate, but it also needs “a strong opposition to hold her to account”.