Zoe's back from her honeymoon and here to fill us in on the latest from Westminster.
As if we didn’t have enough to contend with thanks to Brexit, now a General Election has been thrown into the mix!
You'll no doubt have seen that last Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap General Election for Thursday 8th June.
Just over two years since the last one and less than a year since the EU referendum, voters will once again be heading to the polls.
May’s announcement, delivered on the first day back after MPs’ Easter recess, certainly bought the politicians back to reality with a heavy thump.
Why, you may ask, has May decided to call an election now?
Since May became Prime Minister in July, she has maintained that she wouldn’t call another General Election. It seems, however, that she has changed her mind – the question is why?
- Brexit – May wants a fresh mandate for her Brexit negotiations and believes that a newly elected, majority Conservative government will make it harder for her political opponents (at home and abroad) to chip away at her authority during the Brexit negotiations.
She wants to put an end to the “political game playing" she says she’s experienced from Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and unelected Lords since becoming Prime Minister.
- Significant Conservative lead in the polls - following the unexpected result of the 2015 General Election, we have learnt to treat polls with caution, but nevertheless, we can’t ignore the fact that the Conservatives are currently enjoying an 18-point lead, leaving Labour trailing behind.
It's almost unheard of for a governing party to be going into an election with such a strong lead, and it creates the perfect opportunity for May to consolidate her mandate.
Based on current polling, we can expect the Conservatives to be returned with a much stronger majority. The biggest losers are likely to be of the Labour contingent. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour has been plagued with so much in-fighting that they’ve struggled to present an effective opposition to the Conservative government. This is not the best position for the party to be in six weeks out from the election.
So what does all this mean in practice?
- Brexit - Any progress on the UK’s exit from the EU will essentially be on hold until after the elections.
This means that key and concrete decisions on issues which will affect the equine sector, which I’ve raised in previous blogs (such as the movement of horses and EU nationals currently living in the UK), will be put on the back burner until after the election.
May's hoping to return to Brussels after 8th June with a strengthened mandate to put the UK’s case to the EU.
- New manifestos – another election means a fresh batch of manifestos.
These haven’t been published just yet, but we have been hearing snippets of what they might include, particularly from Labour.
Of importance to the equine sector, on Tuesday the Shadow Brexit Minister Sir Keir Starmer announced that under a Labour government, all EU nationals currently living in the UK would be allowed to stay.
You’ll remember from previous blogs that this issue was a hotly debated one as the Brexit bill was going through parliament.
Unlikely as a Labour government currently looks, Starmer’s announcement is helping to maintain the momentum on this and it will be interesting to see how the Conservative party responds in their manifesto in due course.
- Parliament will dissolve on Wednesday 3rd May - allowing MPs to return to their constituencies and focus on campaigning for their seats.
This means there'll be no parliamentary activity between next week and the 13th June when the new cohort of MPs return to Westminster.
- No more policy announcements – in the run up to General Elections, the government enters a period called Purdah during which departments refrain from making any announcements. Purdah started on Saturday 22nd April.
Over the next couple of weeks, we can expect to see the battle lines between the parties being firmly drawn as each party releases their manifesto, and in the next blog I’ll highlight the key elements for the equine sector from each one and explain other key developments as the election battles hot up.