UK Votes

Snap election is a win-win for Theresa May: She’ll crush Labour and make Brexit a little easier

By calling a national vote now, the prime minister can strengthen her own position at home and at the Brexit negotiating table.

So Theresa May, it turns out, is only human. After months of denying she was going to do it, the British prime minister decided to call an early general election – first and foremost because she knows she’s going to win.

Indeed, she’s not just going to win; she’s going to win big. Contrary to common wisdom, bookies don’t necessarily know better than opinion pollsters when it comes to predicting political events, but they know a racing certainty when they see one. Within minutes of the prime minister’s announcement, one national chain was giving odds of 2/9 on an overall majority for the Conservatives, with Labour out on 14/1.

To those Corbynistas who think the public will warm to Jeremy and his policies once they see more of him: Not. Going. To. Happen. If the Labour leader and his team think they’ve had a raw deal from the media – and from the Tories – since he took over, they ain’t seen nothing yet. Even on a level playing field (and it won’t be one) they’d still stand no chance: they’re miles behind on the economy, serious difficulties in the NHS haven’t yet fed through electorally, and Labour is seen as neither trustworthy nor competent. Game over.

Everything, then, points to a thumping win for the Conservatives. It may be pushing it to predict their majority will run to three figures but it shouldn’t be ruled out – even without the changes to parliamentary boundaries that would have come in prior to an election in 2020.

Why now?

Anyone arguing that the PM has somehow lied to the public by giving the distinct impression since July that she wasn’t going to call an early election should save their breath. The fact of the matter is this: people seem to like Theresa May – or at least respect her – but they see her as a politician not as some sort of saint. They know the game and they know she’s played it well – and that they’d probably have done the same in her position. I know I would.

True, there may be a bit more of a debate worth having on whether the public actually wants a general election so soon after the previous one and after the EU referendum. Indeed, I suspect they don’t and that that will mean a lower turnout – perhaps even lower than might be expected for a vote with such a certain outcome.

But turnout would really have to fall massively to substantially impact on the legitimacy of May’s new administration, and anyway any such deficit would doubtless be compensated for by her being able to claim the fabled “personal mandate” that all hitherto unelected prime ministers are said (with no good constitutional reason, mind you) to crave.

That, of course, isn’t the main reason she’s doing this. What this victory will give May (as well as the chance to crush Labour before it comes to its senses and gets itself a new leader) is a whole bunch of new Tory backbenchers who, whatever their views on Europe and other issues, will know full well that they owe their place on the green benches mainly to her. That almost certainly means that she will be less beholden to some of the ultra-eurosceptics on whom she would have otherwise have to have relied.

Obviously, there are so many factors involved in determining the eventual shape of that deal, but it seems fair to assume that we may be heading for a rather softer and transitional Brexit than might have been the case had the PM not decided to go sooner rather than later.

Absent an economic meltdown between now and 2019, what an early election will also do is dash once and for all the already fast-fading hopes of Remainers that Brexit might somehow be prevented. Although Leavers have forgotten it, the referendum result was tight. But the Lib Dems are the only party arguing that the UK should stay in the EU and they are likely to get around 15% in this election at best. That will reinforce the idea that leaving really is the “the will of the people” – on the subject of which, it will, incidentally, be fascinating to see how UKIP does without Nigel Farage as its leader.

Finally, for Labour this is the good news, bad news election. Good news, centrists hope, because a big defeat should ensure the party sees the back of Corbyn. Bad news because few parties recover from a big defeat in just one parliamentary term – and because they still have to find someone halfway decent to replace him.

Tim Bale, Professor of Politics, Queen Mary University of London

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

Play

During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.