By Claire Zillman
April 19, 2017

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May stunned her country yesterday by calling for a snap election on June 8 after vowing—on at least seven occasions—to do no such thing.

Why the sudden reversal? In this helpful, five-point explainer, my colleague Geoffrey Smith breaks down her rationale:

  1. It’s personal. The vote will give May her own mandate to govern and to pursue her “Hard Brexit” approach to splitting with the EU. She inherited her current mandate from predecessor David Cameron, who resigned after the Brexit referendum in June.
  2. Give her some space. May’s Conservatives only have a 17-seat majority in the 650-seat House of Commons, leaving her vulnerable to even a small in-party revolt. Gaining a bigger majority in an early election will theoretically give her more leeway to pursue her agenda with few compromises, especially in upcoming Brexit talks.
  3. Simply irresistable. The opinion polls are simply too good to pass up. Disorganization and infighting have crippled the Labour Party, giving Conservatives a current 21-point lead over the main opposition. May is seizing the moment.
  4. Timing is everything. It had become increasingly clear that May wouldn’t be able to complete a trade deal with the EU before 2020, when the next general election was scheduled to take place. Winning a five-year mandate in June will relieve pressure in 2019, when the Brexit negotiations are set to be finalized.
  5. Escaping the past. Securing her own mandate will also free May from non-Brexit commitments Cameron made—like promises to raise pensions and freeze taxes—that would have been hard to keep even before Britain voted to leave the EU.

May said yesterday that she arrived at her decision for a snap election “only recently” and “reluctantly,” before launching into campaign speak.

“Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of the EU. Every vote for the Conservatives will mean we can stick to our plan for a stronger Britain and take the right long-term decisions for a more secure future.”

The question now is whether Brits will take her word for it.

—@clairezillman

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