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Theresa May is seeking a general election to give her a direct mandate to take the country through the Brexit divorce with the EU.
The decision, which comes just three weeks after the prime minister began the formal Brexit process, stunned many British politicians as they returned from their Easter break. The vote is slated to be held on June 8.
“We need a general election and we need one now”, said Ms May outside the steps of Downing Street on Tuesday. The prime minister said she had “reluctantly” come to the decision as the only way to ensure the UK’s political stability during the Brexit talks.
“It is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to steer us through Brexit”, said the PM who called on the House of Commons to back the snap vote.
The pound rose slightly against the dollar by 0.12 per cent following the announcement.
Mrs May had previously said categorically that the next general election would be held as scheduled in 2020, and many Conservative backbenchers had shown little enthusiasm for a vote.
“It isn’t going to happen. There is not going to be a general election,” her spokesman said on March 20.
The prime minister is understood to have changed her mind after taking advice from senior figures including Sir Lynton Crosby, mastermind of the 2015 election campaign.
Two polls over the Easter weekend put the Conservatives 21 points ahead of Labour, a lead that is likely to greatly increase its existing working Commons majority of 17.
Holding an election gives Mrs May an opportunity to win a direct mandate for the first time to be prime minister. She took power last July without a public vote, after David Cameron resigned and her remaining rival in the Conservative leadership contest, Andrea Leadsom, pulled out of the race.
If Mrs May had remained in power without a vote until 2020, it would have been the longest a prime minister had served without an election since Winston Churchill during the second world war.
Image via Reuters