Theresa May calls early general election on 8 June

The prime minister has announced that a Commons vote will be held on Wednesday.

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Theresa May has called an early general election, which will take place on 8 June.

On the steps of Downing Street, the prime minister said that her decision was driven by Labour and Lib Dem "threats" to vote against the final deal on Brexit.

"The country is coming together but Westminster is not," she said.

Theresa May makes the announcement outside Number 10.

May will call a Commons vote on Wednesday. This is a requirement of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which mandates an election every five years. However, it also includes provisions for an early vote. (My colleague Julia explains them here.)

A YouGov poll published on Sunday put the Tories on 44 per cent, with Labour on 23 per cent. The Lib Dems were on 12 per cent and Ukip on 10 per cent. 

The Conservatives have a working majority of 16 in the House of Commons. If the YouGov polls were replicated at a general election, the Conservatives would have a majority of significantly more than 100. 

That, in turn, would make passing controversial Brexit legislation - on which many Tories have talked about rebelling - far easier.

An election will also give Theresa May a mandate of her own - based on her manifesto. As the national insurance row showed in the wake of the Budget, May and her chancellor Philip Hammond have recently felt constrained by the prospectus they inherited from the Cameron/Osborne era.

The announcement is a sharp U-turn for May, who was briefing as recently as last month that there would be no early election. She also turned down Nicola Sturgeon's request for a second referendum on Scottish independence on the grounds it would cause "instability" while Brexit negotiations were ongoing.

Helen Lewis is a former deputy editor of the New Statesman, who is now a staff writer on the Atlantic. She is the author of Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights (Jonathan Cape).

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