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Here’s Theresa May calling a snap election, annotated by a froth-mouthed remainiac

If you’ve just joined us, the prime minister over-riding the Fixed Terms Parliament Act to improve her own political prospects is accusing other people of treating politics as a game.

“I have just chaired a meeting of Cabinet where we agreed that the Government should call a general election to be held on the 8th June. I want to explain the reasons for that decision, what will happen next and the choice facing the British people when you come to vote in this election.”

Okay, strong start. I mean, I do wonder whether anyone around that table – Scotland secretary David Mundell, say (majority: 798) – may have been quietly wetting themselves that they were agreeing themselves out of a job, but nonetheless.

“Last summer after the country voted to leave the European Union, Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership and since I became Prime Minister the Government has delivered precisely that.”

Yes, if you ignore the lack of certainty that comes from there being no plan for Brexit, the lack of stability that will come from crashing out of the Single Market, and the strong leadership that’s seen the Prime Minister threaten war against a confectionery firm – then yes, Theresa May has delivered precisely that.

“Despite predictions of immediate financial and economic danger since the referendum we have seen consumer confidence remain high, record numbers of jobs and economic growth that has exceeded all expectations.”

Write out 100 times “Britain has not left the Single Market yet”. On my desk by 9am, pls.

“We have also delivered on the mandate we were handed by the referendum result.”

I mean we’re still a member of the European Union and have no idea what leaving will look like, but, sure, whatever helps you sleep at night.

“Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back.”

Actually, legal advice on this is divided: if, in March 2019, Britain were to turn up at the European Commission’s door sobbing that it had made a terrible mistake and begging them to take us back, it’s very possible they would do just that, on the “prodigal son” principle.

So while there probably won’t be any turning back, it’s far from clear that there can’t be.

“And as we look to the future the Government has the right plan for negotiating our new relationship with Europe.”

Cool. Any chance you fancy telling us what that plan is, or...?

“ We want a deep and special partnership between a strong and successful European Union and a UK that is free to chart its own way in the world. That means we will regain control of our own money, our own laws and our own borders and we will be free to strike trade deals with old friends and new partners all around the world.

“This is the right approach and it is in the national interest...”

Which nation? Scotland? Northern Ireland? The UK, which may well break apart? Which?

“...but the other political parties oppose it.”

I mean, they don’t though, do they? The SNP does, but so does Scotland, so fair enough. The LibDems do, but polls and by-elections both suggest they’re likely to see an increase in seats, so that’s an odd criticism too.

What May means here is that Labour opposes the Tories' plan. Which is weird because it doesn’t: most of the PLP voted cheerfully for May to trigger Article 50 and to hell with the consequences.

God knows I’d love it if Her Majesty’s Opposition thought that, on the biggest issue facing Britain in decades its role was to actually oppose the government, but it. Just. Doesn’t.

At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division.”

Why should there be unity? Half the country voted against Brexit. What kind of representative democracy would it be if our political system just ignored them?

 “The country is coming together but Westminster is not.”

I am genuinely curious to know whether she believes this stuff. There is no evidence, at all, that the country is coming together: polls consistently show that around 40-45 per cent back Brexit, a very slightly smaller group oppose it, and the rest don’t know.

Sooooooo... does May really think that the Recidivist Remainers don’t exist? Does she think they are so small in number they can be ignored? Or is this a cynical attempt to de-legitimise the views of two whole fifths of the population by pretending they’re a tiny left-wing elite who can therefore be safely ignored?

Rhetorical question.

“In recent weeks Labour have threatened to vote against the final agreement we reach with the European Union...”

It’s a parliamentary system, prime minister. It’s your job to get a deal so good they can’t.

“...the Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill, the SNP say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union and unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.”

This is probably the most sinister paragraph in the entire speech. Even if the most extreme of the polls are correct, the Conservatives are unlikely to get over about 43 per cent of the vote. The idea they would get a majority of the popular vote is for the birds.

Yet the prime minister is unsubtly trying to imply that any opposition at all to her executive fiat is somehow illegitimate. This despite the fact that “Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition” has been a recognised feature of the British constitution for nearly 200 years.

Why does Theresa May hate Britain so much? Why does she not share our values? You may well ask.

“Our opponents believe because the Government’s majority is so small that our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course.”

As, to be fair, do half your backbenchers. And we all know which group you’re really frightened of.

“They are wrong, they underestimate our determination to get the job done nd I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of working people across the country because what they are doing jeopardises the work we must do to prepare for Brexit at home and it weakens the Government’s negotiating position in Europe.”

By not handing the prime minister a blank cheque, you are hurting hard-working families, you monster.  

“If we do not hold a General Election now their political gameplaying will continue and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election.”

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand there we are.

On the timetable currently envisioned, the UK will leave the European Union at the end of March 2019.  In other words, Theresa May could be taking the country out of the single market without a deal, leaving lorries to queue up for customs checks on the M2, just 13 months before the deadline for the next general election.

In other words: this may well be the high water mark of the Tories’ polling. Better to hold an election now, before we all realise how bad things are going to get, and pray that somehow this mess has been sorted out once again by June 2022. Could happen.

“Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country.”

Does she think she’s going to get every seat? Does she imagine that opposition will magically stop?

So we need a general election and we need one now because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin.

“I have only recently and reluctantly come this conclusion.”

This would explain why you kept saying you weren’t going to hold an election, certainly.

“ 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.

“And so tomorrow I will move a motion in the House of Commons calling for a general election to be held on the 8th June. That motion, as set out by the Fixed Term Parliament Act, will require a two thirds majority of the House of Commons.

“So I have a simple challenge to the opposition parties. You have criticised the government’s vision for Brexit...”

No, they’ve criticised your lack of one.

“...you have challenged our objectives...”

What are they?

“... you have threatened to block the legislation we put before Parliament.”

TELL US THE PLAN, THERESA.

“This is your moment to show you mean it, to show you are not opposing the Government for the sake of it, to show that you do not treat politics as a game.”

If you’ve just joined us, the prime minister over-riding the Fixed Terms Parliament Act to improve her own political prospects is accusing other people of treating politics as a game.

“Let us tomorrow vote for an election, let us put forward our plans for Brexit and our alternative programmes for government and then let the people decide. And the decision facing the country will be all about leadership. It will be a choice between strong and stable leadership in the national interest, with me as your Prime Minister, or weak and unstable coalition government led by Jeremy Corbyn, propped up by the Liberal Democrats, who want to re-open the divisions of the referendum, and Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.”

Now what does this remind me of?

“Every vote for the Conservatives will make it harder for opposition politicians who want to stop me from getting the job done.”

The Lib Dems should stick this on a poster.

“ Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of the European Union. Every vote for the Conservatives will mean we can stick to our plan for a stronger Britain and take the right long-term decisions for a more secure future.

“It was with reluctance that I deided the country needs this election but it is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond. So tomorrow, let the House of Commons vote for an election, let everybody put forward their proposals for Brexit and their programmes for government and let us remove the risk of uncertainty and instability and continue to give the country the strong and stable leadership it demands.”

Sometime in the 17th century, Louis XIV is said to have told a gathering in Paris, “L’etat, c’est moi” – I am the nation. Whether he ever actually uttered that phrase is disputed, but it sums up his unshakeable belief in the divine right of kings – that there was no difference between the interests of France and those of himself.

Well: today we learned that Theresa May feels exactly the same. To convince the world she has brought Britain together, she must find a way of dismissing those who disagree with as somehow illegitimate. Opposing her is opposing Britain. Voting for anyone but the Tories is thus unpatriotic.

I wouldn’t mind so much, except she’s going to win in a landslide.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.