British prime minister should call an election

John O'Neill

British Prime Minister Theresa May is not required to call an election in the United Kingdom for another four years. But in the wake of Brexit, the vote to pull the U.K. out of the European Union, and that Mrs. May is prime minister currently by default (the result of the resignation of David Cameron), she should call an election this year.

Unfortunately, according to the British press, those close to Prime Minister May have indicated there will be no national election in the near future. Denying an election runs contrary to British tradition, which holds that a prime minister who has ascended to the office by way of the resignation of the predecessor owes it to the electorate to attain a popular mandate.

Prime Minister May has deflected calls for an election, citing her goal of one Britain entrenched in the bond between England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. But this bond is on the verge of severance, as Scotland is making serious noises about leaving the U.K., so as to remain in the EU.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has said it is conceivable that a referendum to break from the U.K. is forthcoming. Scotland rejected such a referendum in 2014 largely because of the scare tactics warning that an independent Scotland would find itself outside the EU. How ironic that Scotland now faces exclusion from the EU due to its place in the U.K.

But an even greater irony is that to solidify the U.K. is exactly why Prime Minister May should call an election soon. It would preempt the referendum movement in Scotland by turning Scottish attention away from its potential independence from the U.K. to the prospect of a national election in which Scotland could make its voice count.

A national election in Great Britain could even pave the way for the U.K. to hold another vote on whether to remain part of the EU. But this goes to the core of the prime minister rejecting calls for a national election. Though Mrs. May opposed Brexit, her support for the U.K. to remain part of the EU was soft. And it’s because of Brexit that she is now the prime minister. Thus, her insistence that the Brexit verdict this past June is final.

It is peculiar that the British prime minister harbors such deep respect for the Brexit vote but is content to to lead a government installed without a popular vote. The EU is contemplating that the U.K. is to leave under terms more punitive than any since those imposed on Germany after World War I. Therefore, that the British electorate might want to reconsider its decision to break from the EU is most conceivable.

But that will not happen unless and until Prime Minister May subjects her own leadership to a popular vote.

John O’Neill is a writer based in Allen Park.