We’re now barely six weeks away from a general election. Supposedly. The excitement in the press and in the public is… imperceptible? I guess you don’t see anything happening locally until the parties have chosen their candidates and geared up for the vote, which means it’s going to be an incredibly short campaign. The Prime Minister is too busy to bother defending her policies.
The general response is like, ha, well played Theresa. Calling the election was the whole game. And the fact that she was still mocking suggestions for a new election just a week before is treated is just proof of her cleverness. Rather than unscrupulousness.
Except, of course — and this is the weird thing — she didn’t call an election. She couldn’t, because of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act. She could only request that the opposition join her in dissolving Parliament. Which they did, because courage! Democracy! You can’t show yourself afraid of an election. By that argument we should have elections every month. Or at any time when the Opposition believes it has an advantage. At the very least, Labour could have insisted on slowing down the process, to give the opposition enough time to mobilise. But that would make them seem weak.
Because British politics is, more than in any other country where I’ve lived, about macho posturing. It’s sport. Except, it’s like a sport played by 6-year-olds, who are constantly inventing new rules to their own advantage and trying to make them sound official. (Reading Tim Shipman’s exhaustive account of the EU referendum campaign All Out War, I was dismayed by the extent to which British political discourse turns out to orient itself around football, TV series (particularly Game of Thrones), and scatalogical wordplay.)