Show Hide image

A flashback to all the times Theresa May said a snap election was a terrible idea because it would cause "instability"

Theresa May used to say an election would cause "instability". Now she says it's the only way to stop instability. So which is it?


From her first speech announcing her candidacy as Tory leader (and therefore prime minister), Theresa May has insisted - really, really insisted - that she did not plan to call a general election. It always seemed an odd position, as she lacked her own mandate and was stuck trying to juggle her own legislative agenda alongside the promises made by David Cameron and George Osborne. The Tories' lead in the polls also promised her an increased majority, making it easier to get legislation through the Commons.

But no - she repeatedly told the press - she would not seek an early election. Why? Because after the EU referendum, the UK needed a "period of stability". 

And why is she now calling an election? In order to "guarantee certainty and stability". 

Figure that one out if you can.

Anyway, for the record, let's take a trip down Memory Lane to appreciate how May was dead against an early election - until she wasn't. 

30 June 2016

"There should be no general election until 2020," said Theresa May when launching her Tory leadership campaign.

4 September 2016

Appearing on the BBC's flagship political show, May refused to answer Andrew Marr's suggestion that she must be "tempted" to hold an early election.

Andrew Marr: Now, we’ve talked about a possible Scottish referendum and we’ve talked about the timing of Article 50 and so on. Let me ask you about another election, which is the next general election. Because if you look at the polling - and a lot of people in your party are very excited about this – if you went to the country now you’d get a majority of something like 114 or 130. That seems a wonderful opportunity for you. Are you tempted in any way to all a snap election?

Theresa May: I think what’s important, particularly having had the referendum vote, is that we have a period of stability. So there’s a – a challenge ahead in ensuring that we make a success of coming out of the European Union. I think it’s important that we focus on that and the other reform agenda that I have for the country as we go forward. And we’ll be continuing the manifesto on which the Conservative government was elected in 2015, so I don’t think there’s a – a need for an election. I think the next election will be in 2020. 

AM: Let me make this very clear, because again it’s very important. Under current law the next election will be in 2020. No ifs, no buts, no snap elections, no changing the law. Under you, is that absolutely certain, that we’re not going to see an election before 2020? 

TM: I – I – I’m not going to be calling a snap election. I’ve been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020. 

1 October 2016

In an interview with the Sunday Times, May reiterated her belief that an election would cause "instability".


2 October 2016

A month later, Andrew Marr had another go at getting her to open up, but still no dice.

Andrew Marr: It just seems to me in terms of the brutal politics, there are lots of opposition MPs who for their own reason might want to vote this down and there are a lot of Tories on the so called soft Brexit argument who might want to vote it down. You may well not be able to get this through, and if you can’t, isn’t that the trigger for another General Election? I know you’ve been through this, we’ve been talking about this before.

Theresa May: Well, Andrew, let’s just look – as I’ve just said, when parliament voted for a referendum on staying in the European Union, parliament voted six to one to say to the British people this is your choice. We’re going to ask you this question. You give us your voice. The British people have determined that we will leave the European Union and I think anybody who’s looking at this Repeal Bill, which will repeal the European Communities Act, will make us that independent sovereign nation once again, able to determine our own laws, anybody looking at that should remember that this is about delivering for the British people. And it’s – to me it’s not just about leaving the EU, it’s about that essential question of the trust that people can have in their politicians. The people have spoken, we will deliver on that.

7 March 2017

"It's not going to happen. It's not something she plans to do or wishes to do," says the prime minister's spokesman, after William Hague writes a column suggesting a snap election will give May a mandate for Brexit negotiations. 

30 March 2017

"There isn’t going to be one. It isn’t going to happen. There is not going to be a general election," said the prime minister's spokesman

18 April 2017

"Since I became Prime Minister I have said there should be no election until 2020 but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take," said Theresa May this morning. 

What - cough 20 point poll lead cough - could possibly have changed her mind?

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496