The cut-and-thrust of electoral politics began in right earnest in the House of Commons on Wednesday as Prime Minister Theresa May chided opposition leaders for trying to join hands, and insisted she and her Conservative Party alone could get the best Brexit deal for Britain.
There were passionate exchanges during the Prime Minister’s Question Time, which was dominated by May’s Tuesday announcement to hold a mid-term election on June 8. The House was scheduled to debate the announcement later in the day.
A two-thirds majority is needed to approve the government motion to hold the election. It is likely to pass given the support by the opposition Labour and Liberal Democrats. The Scottish National Party said it would abstain.
Fending off repeated barbs for not agreeing to appear on live television debates between party leaders before June 8, May said she would be out on the streets debating with everyone, and accused the opposition of trying to divide the country.
According to her, three leaders of the main parties – Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrats' Tim Farron and Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon – were trying to come together before the election to allegedly divide the country on the issue of Brexit.
Several MPs across parties announced their decision not to contest the election, including former chancellor, George Osborne, recently appointed editor of the mass circulation Evening Standard. He also has other engagements.
During the exchanges in the House, Corbyn sought to turn the debate to non-Brexit issues such as health, employment, funding cuts and education, while May and her party’s focus was on Brexit. Labour faces criticism that its stand on Brexit is not clear enough.
May repeated her reasons for calling the mid-term poll, insisting that opposition parties and the House of Lords were allegedly a hurdle to her government securing a good deal for Britain from Brussels. A renewed mandate is expected to help overcome such hurdles and carping.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier in the day, May said: “I genuinely came to this decision reluctantly, having looked at the circumstances, and having looked ahead at the process of negotiation.
“I want this country to be able to play the strongest hand possible in those negotiations to get the best possible deal because that’s in our long-term interests. That’s what this is about, it’s about asking the people to trust me, to trust us in government, to give us that mandate to go and get that really good deal for the UK.”