THE SNAP UK General Election, called this week by Prime Minister Theresa May, took the majority of the British public by complete surprise, coming so closely after last year’s Brexit referendum.
May claims it is the only way to guarantee political stability for years ahead as Britain negotiates its way out of the European Union.
‘I have just chaired a meeting of the cabinet where we agreed that the government should call a General Election to be held on the 8th of June,’ May said in a surprise statement outside her Downing Street office.
‘It was with reluctance that I decided 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.’
Under current legislation, the next election was not scheduled to take place until 2020.
May’s Conservatives, who were split on the issue of European Union membership ahead of last year’s referendum, are currently far ahead of Labour, the main opposition party, according to opinion polls.
For many expatriate UK citizens living in Spain, the early election has come as a severe blow to their hopes of being able to cast their votes in future elections.
Current legislation does not permit anyone living outside of the UK for over 15 years the right to vote in elections and referendums in the country.
The last Conservative manifesto, which brought them to power in 2015, promised to redress this issue, by bringing a ‘Votes for life’ bill through Parliament before the next election, which was scheduled for 2020.
However, Sir Roger Gale, one of the MP’s behind the bill has confirmed by e-mail to supporters awaiting news of its progress, that the ‘Votes for life’ bill will not be pushed through in time for the people who’ve lived in Spain over 15 years to vote in the General Election this coming June.
In the email distributed to people on his mailing list on Wednesday April 19, he said:
‘The commitment, made in good faith, was to have the legislation and supporting franchise infrastructure approved by the Electoral Commission on the statute book in time for a 2020 General Election and my understanding from Chris Skidmore in the Cabinet Office is that that process was on track at the time that the Prime Minister announced her intention to seek an election on June 8’
He goes on to explain why the contentious nature of the bill makes it impossible to push through quickly: ‘It gives me no pleasure to have to say that there is no prospect of this process being expedited, as some have sought to suggest, by the time that Parliament is dissolved on May 2/3. Only agreed and non-contentious measures will be allowed to pass through both Houses of Parliament – and a ‘Votes for Life’ bill will have to go through both Houses – before the House is prorogued. All other (contentious) measures will have to be carried over or re-introduced in the next parliament.’
As a small crumb of comfort to disappointed ex-patriates in Spain, Sir Roger ends the email by saying:‘I am sorry to have to offer blunt and disappointing news but can only say that I, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and others who support the ‘Votes for Life’ cause, will seek to ensure that this is contained within our Party´s manifesto and introduced as early as possible in the next parliament.’
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron released a statement – ‘This election is your chance to change the direction of our country. If you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the single market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance. Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority.’
As did Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas – ‘Britain is at a crossroads – and today’s announcement means that people are rightly given a say over the direction this country is going to take. Only the Green party offers a bold, positive vision for a different kind of Britain. At this election, we will stand for an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few; a Britain that’s open to the world and the protection of our precious envi-ronment. We will stand up to the politics of hatred and division that is scarring our communities and give people across the country a chance to vote for a better Britain.’
Along with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party – ‘I welcome the prime minister’s decision to give the Brit-ish people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first. Labour will be of-fering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered fall-ing living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS. In the last couple of weeks, Labour has set out policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country. We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain.’
The pound strengthened by almost half a cent against the dollar as May spoke, reflecting investor relief that earlier rumours of a shock resignation did not transpire. Ten-year British government bond yields also rose slightly.