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”.
Theresa May has told The Sunday Times she has ruled out a general election before 2020 as an early vote would cause “instability”
— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) 1 October 2016
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?