Ex­pect­ing the un­ex­pected with May’s sur­prise gam­ble

As po­lit­i­cal drama goes, Theresa May’s an­nounce­ment of a snap elec­tion caught the po­lit­i­cal world off guard. So will the gam­ble of go­ing to the coun­try pay off and how will the par­ties fare in Kent, a key elec­toral bat­tle­ground? Po­lit­i­cal edi­tor gives his

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page -

Catch­ing peo­ple by sur­prise is a use­ful skill in pol­i­tics and Theresa May knew her un­ex­pected an­nounce­ment would put her ri­vals on the back foot.

True, she had pre­vi­ously ruled out an early elec­tion but she ap­pealed over the heads of MPs by say­ing that while the coun­try was united, West­min­ster was not.

What was needed was a strong man­date to se­cure a strong Brexit, she ar­gued.

It is a sim­ple mes­sage and sim­ple mes­sages of­ten ap­peal to vot­ers.

One prac­ti­cal prob­lem for ri­val par­ties is they are al­ready a step be­hind. Most have no can­di­dates in place to get cam­paign­ing un­der way to take on in­cum­bent Con­ser­va­tives with, in many Kent seats, size­able ma­jori­ties.

For Labour, the elec­tion could not have come at a worse time. Its poll rat­ings are in free fall and it will have to cam­paign with Jeremy Cor­byn as leader – whose own rat­ings are fall­ing through the floor.

The odds that it can roll back large Con­ser­va­tive ma­jori­ties in what has re­verted to true blue Kent are pretty long.

As for Ukip, the party that ar­guably did most to se­cure Brexit, in-fight­ing, de­fec­tions and public rows have con­spired to make it seem as di­vided as Labour.

It has viewed Kent as a strong­hold but its ex-leader, Nigel Farage, failed to be­come South Thanet MP in 2015.

He may not have the ap­petite for a re­run in a seat which saw an at­tri­tional bat­tle that ended in a bruis­ing de­feat.

The party could lose ground at the county coun­cil elec­tion, where it took every­one by sur­prise in 2013, leav­ing it with lit­tle im­pe­tus for the na­tional poll just one month later.

The Lib­eral Democrats have some mod­est grounds for op­ti­mism. It has pre­sented it­self as the party for proEuro­pean vot­ers and se­cured some im­pres­sive coun­cil by-elec­tion gains since its low point in 2015.

In Kent, it could gain some mo­men­tum if it per­forms well in the county coun­cil elec­tion but is still re­cov­er­ing from a very low base.

An in­creased share of the vote is cer­tain but can that trans­late into seats? Watch for an in­ter­est­ing con­test in Maid­stone and the Weald.

Theresa May has gam­bled that the British vot­ers will give her the en­dorse­ment she says she needs to get the best deal for the UK from leav­ing the EU.

On pa­per, it is hard to see be­yond the Con­ser­va­tives tight­en­ing their grip on the county and suc­cess­fully de­fend­ing all their seats.

But one thing pol­i­tics has taught us in re­cent years is to ex­pect the un­ex­pected.

It will be in the back of Con­ser­va­tive minds right up un­til polling day on Thurs­day, June 8.

Pic­ture: Barry Good­win

Theresa May said while the coun­try was united, West­min­ster was not

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.