No Prime Minister will ever walk into Number 10 Downing Street expecting to enjoy a peaceful, quiet day, but Theresa May’s brief tenure as Britain’s leader has already been as eventful as many PMs who have held office for years.
Since her inauguration last July, May has conducted a ruthless reshuffling of her Cabinet, triggered Article 50 to begin Britain’s departure from the European Union, engaged in Brexit negotiations, and attracted controversy for her work with divisive President Donald Trump. But in spite of all of the above, May’s most impactful move to date remains her call for a snap election in June 2017 – something which has not been done in the United Kingdom since the 1970s.
May had previously indicated that she would not be prepared to call an early general election, which made her public declaration on 18thApril all the more surprising. Many eyebrows were raised at the announcement, but after the initial shock and awe had subsided, attention turned towards the ramifications that the early general election would have for the country – not just in terms of which party would take the majority of seats, but also the effect it would inevitably have on both current and planned UK legislation, as well as political protocols.
May has argued that the snap election is the "only way to guarantee certainty and security for years ahead". While this could turn out to be true, there is no escaping the temporary commotion that will be caused by the sudden reorganisation of numerous policies. The challenge that Theresa May now faces is to contain this commotion so the snap election does not degenerate into turmoil, and there is a considerable amount of work currently going on behind the scenes as the British political landscape experiences one of its biggest earthquakes in recent times.
While political parties and the public have been forced to revaluate their plans and promptly prepare for an unexpected campaign, the unrest caused by the snap election also stretches into the upper echelons of the administrative province – with the revolutionary proposed boundary changes for parliamentary constituencies set to be scrapped.
In September 2016, the Boundary Commission announced formal plans that suggested the face of politics in Britain was set to change forever, cutting 650 constituencies to 600 and reducing the number of MPs in the country. Arrangements were in place for these changes to be evaluated, tabled and integrated in time for the next general election in 2020, but the snap election means that they may never actually happen – at least not in the format that was initially proposed back in September.
With the call for an early general, one of the most noteworthy electoral map modifications in British history has suddenly been removed and rendered irrelevant – at least for the time being. The next time we will see boundary changes at all will be in 2022, which is considerably later than initially anticipated.
Like the proposed boundary changes, there are number of government bills that will never pass or see the light of day again because of a combination of both the snap election and Brexit procedures.
The Prisons & Courts Bill proposed by Michael Gove has already been shelved, with the Local Government Finance Bill and Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill also being put to one side until the new parliament has been officially elected after June 8th.
The National Funding Formula – which involved plans to redistribute education funding in a more effective and balanced way – had already been pushed back prior to the snap election and is now facing further delays, with schools fearing that they may never benefit from what appeared to be a very attractive proposal.
Mayoral elections around the country have not been completely unaffected by the early general, but have been allowed to go ahead nonetheless. What remains uncertain for the time being is whether further devolution deals are set to occur in the coming weeks and months.
Organising the Snap Election
Aside from the effect on legislation, policies, and bills, the snap election has also caused considerable unrest in the employment sector. Around 120,000 people were employed to help arrange the 2015 general election, and cobbling together this many workers at twice the speed in such a short space of time has, unsurprisingly, proven to be a real challenge.
Venues and buildings that ordinarily double as polling stations have been forced to reshuffle schedules to make themselves available for June 8th, whilst administration teams have been scrambling to recruit electoral workers to operate the polling venues themselves.
Lobbyists and party representatives are being forced to double down on their already hectic work schedules in order to cultivate the right image for their respective political alliances, with staff members of every party pouring blood, sweat, and tears into their roles right up until the final polls take place in June.
The media have also been stirred by the announcement of the snap election, with news outlets engaged in the process of rearranging broadcast schedules to ensure there will be resources and availability for comprehensive round-the-clock coverage of the one of the most momentous polls in recent memory.
Influence on Voters
As the most recent general election took place in 2015, the British public were not expecting another until 2020. However, May calling a snap election for June 2017 means that the next general will now be postponed and is unlikely to take place until 2022.
There have also been concerns that calling an election at such breakneck speed will influence the overall voter turnout. The UK remains distinctly divided and unsure of its political allegiances, and many may simply elect not to vote because they do not feel as though they trust any party well enough to justify lending their support. Some members of the education sector have also voiced their concerns about a low student turnout for the early general, with suspicions that students cannot invest themselves properly in the current political climate as they were engrossed in revision and exams when the snap election was called. The argument is that students may not have the time or inclination to vote on such short notice.
It is clear that the UK is going to be a strained, nervy place from now right up until June 8th and beyond. It remains to be seen whether calling a snap election will benefit the country overall, but given the frantic nature of the reorganisation and re-evaluation, nobody in the political climate has the energy or time to be concerned about that now. All that matters is being prepared for next month.