UK Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a surprise general election, less than a year after taking the top job in British politics.
May called for a new vote on Tuesday in an unexpected statement outside Downing Street, despite saying repeatedly that another vote was not necessary.
The election is likely to hand an increased parliamentary majority to May’s Conservative Party.
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) April 18, 2017
A strong performance in the contest, scheduled for June 8th, would help erase some of the difficulties her party faces extricating Britain from the European Union.
The small Conservative majority in the House of Commons means that Government plans for legislation are vulnerable to being blocked.
Critics have continually argued that her plans lack a mandate since many of her key policies – including her strategy for leaving the EU – have never been put to a vote.
The last contest, almost exactly two years ago, gave David Cameron a narrow majority after five years governing in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
It also cleared the way for the EU referendum which ousted Cameron and swept May to power.
Westminster voting intention:
CON: 44% (+2)
LAB: 23% (-2)
LDEM: 12% (+1)
UKIP: 10% (-1)
— Britain Elects (@britainelects) April 16, 2017
Since then her Conservatives have surged in the polls, and the opposition Labour party has slumped, riven by confusion and infighting under leader Jeremy Corbyn.
In the UK, general elections can be called whenever enough MPs vote for them.
A law passed in 2010 laid out a timetable to have contests only every five years – meaning the next UK election was due in May 2020.
But that measure can be overturned by a large majority in parliament – which seems all but certain to happen in the wake of May’s announcement.