For many years, Britain had a reputation around the world for stability. Rightly or wrongly, it was widely believed that things here happened as they should and there were no sudden or harmful changes. Over the last couple of years, though, all that has changed. There’s an oft-quoted curse – “May you live in interesting times!” – that dooms people by wishing they no longer have the luxury of boring old stability, and instead get to experience chaos, instability and extreme change. Britain seems to have fallen victim to just this of late!
Following the general election two years ago, which saw a Tory government (Tories are members of the Conservative Party, the traditional right-wing party of British politics) returned to power, the then-Prime Minster David Cameron decided it would be a good idea to hold a referendum on our membership of the European Union. On the surface, this decision was made in order to win a decisive majority for the Remain side and thus settle the EU issue once and for all. Cameron obviously thought that a decisive victory would decapitate the threat from the hard right wing of his party and from the rabidly anti-immigration party, UKIP. To say that his plans backfired would be an understatement! To top it all, following his defeat, he simply walked away from his job, rather than taking responsibility for his actions, leaving others to try and clean up the mess!
His successor, Theresa May, had campaigned to remain in Europe, but once she came to power, she performed a remarkable U-turn and caved in to the demands of the hard right, insisting that we not only had to leave the European Union, but also the single market (something we were all explicitly promised would not happen during the campaign!) and the EU customs union. Rather than healing the nation and bringing people together, politics was becoming increasingly heated and divisive.
It’s against this backdrop that the nation was hit with the surprise news that Theresa May is calling a snap election for June the 8th. A snap election is one which is called earlier than expected. In this case, it was expected that the next election would be held in 2020, especially as in 2011 the government passed what’s called the fixed-term parliament bill, which insisted that elections be held every five years. This seems to have been either forgotten or else just conveniently overlooked!
Usually when we talk about snap decisions, it means decisions that are made very quickly, without much thought or preparation. People rush into snap decisions – without thinking about the consequences of their actions. Alternatively, they resist being forced / pushed into making a snap decision because they know they need time to think things through and weigh up all their options. In short, snap decisions come with associated risks!
Many people fear that this decision is far more calculated. One theory is that it’s a way of diverting attention away from the fact that many Conservative MPs are currently facing investigation by the police for electoral fraud – for breaking the rules about spending in the last election to gain an unfair advantage. One thing’s for sure: the announcement that we’re to have our third important vote in twenty-four months has caused widespread anxiety, uncertainty, anger and instability. And, for some, just a faint hope that June may possibly be the end of May!
Why not study with us and find out more about British culture on our Advanced English and Culture or English Boost courses this summer?
- Can you remember any snap elections in your country? Why were they called? What was the result?
- Have you ever been forced into making any snap decisions? When? What was the result?
- Do you ever have referendums in your country? If you do, what was the last one about? If do, would you like to? Why? / Why not?
- What’s the best / worst law that your government has passed recently?
- Have any MPs in your country been investigated by the police? What for?
- Do you have any parties or politicians who are rabidly anti something? Anti what?