June 9th, 2017

British election: May miscalculation

I don’t always get the parliamentary system’s finer points.

For example—until recently Theresa May’s party held a majority in Parliament, so why on earth would she risk losing it by calling for a snap election? I understand that she was gambling that the vote would strengthen her party’s hold rather than weaken it, but what leader in this day and age can have that much confidence? It seems foolhardy to me.

Now, although her Conservatives have retained a substantial plurality, May must scramble to enlist the help of DUP to form a coalition government. She appears to have successfully done so, thus averting a Jeremy Corbyn prime ministership. Whew. Dodged that bullet—for now.

One interesting fact about the election is that it appears May’s slim margin was due to support from Jewish voters in four London districts, who voted for May (or rather, against Corbyn and his party) because of Labor’s anti-Semitic tendencies.

14 Responses to “British election: May miscalculation”

  1. John Guilfoyle Says:

    Similar thing happened in Australia not too long ago. Turnbull held his majority but it was reduced & he still looks like a deer in the headlights & governs very much from a defensive posture.

    The ability to declare “snap elections” as they are called in Oz is a great weakness of the Westminster Parliamentary System IMO. It gives the minor parties far too much say in governing compared to the %-age of the population they represent & paired with the ability of the party to oust its leader at will, builds in governmental instability.

  2. Griffin Says:

    This seemed crazy to me from the start. Practically every major election in western governments have not followed the conventional wisdom in the last year or so. She seemed to be betting on Corbyn being so odious that there is no way he could win and I guess she was right but barely.

  3. RohanV Says:

    The element you are missing is that Theresa May did not win the last election. David Cameron did.

    One of the traditions of Anglo parliamentary systems is that if the Prime Minister changes between elections, the new Prime Minister is more of a “caretaker” than a “real” Prime Minister. There is an expectation that the new Prime Minister will call an election fairly soon and allow the country to confirm (or reject) them as the “legitimate” leader of the country.

    All of this is tradition though, and not strictly required by law.

  4. parker Says:


    Thank you for succinctly explaining that tradition pressured May to call for a new election. Here, if a president for whatever reason exists the stage, the VP becoming the new POTUS is not questioned. He/she is not viewed as a caretaker. Both systems, our Constitutional system and the parliamentarian system, have their pluses and minuses.

  5. Dave Says:

    If you look at it in the perspective that this is May’s first election as leader of her party then may be the results weren’t as poor as the media is portraying. Image wise May had a disadvantage as she is an unattractive elderly woman comparing to David Cameron who was the archetypal slick young handsome elite women magnet in the mold of Obama, Macron and Trudeau playing to the crowd of the 50 shades of grey reading female voters. Not to mention the election took place less a week after the appalling terrorist attack after the incumbent ruling party was going to suffer greatly from it.

    May’s decision to call for a snap election was solely based on her party insurmountable leads over their opponents indicated by various polls and once again the polls were dead wrong. The moral of the story is never ever make any important political decision based on polls, they were usually wrong and they changed rapidly and constantly.

  6. Harry the Extremist Says:

    I dont know if this is May’s miscalculation so much as Trump’s recent visit to Europe.
    Its so great to have a blunt, non-nuanced non politician for President isnt it?

  7. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Evidently Corbyn, inveterate marxist and apologist for Islam won handily among the young. Continuation of entitlement programs and climate change were apparently their big issues. A generation whistling past the graveyard, while Islam prepares their society’s grave. Singing kumbaya as their train careens toward the cliff.

  8. Yancey Ward Says:

    May was foolish to call the election- bird in the hand etc.

    However, everyone was assuring her that her majority would be safely increased, and I think it likely would have been increased, but the three terror attacks undid her. Her comments were simply atrociously PC and thus unserious. The Charlie Hebdo cover of May holding her own severed head was devastatingly on target in this regard. Even worse for May was the fact that pretty much all the terrorists in these attacks were not only known wolves, but well known wolves, and she was not only the PM during the attacks, but had been the Home Secretary under Cameron.

    I personally think the Tories made a colossal error choosing her- Boris Johnson would have been a far better choice, and even better in my opinion would have been keeping Cameron originally. I think May is toast- after the minority government is formed, I fully expect her to resign under pressure. I do think this means that Brexit won’t happen until a second referendum is held, and I think all the stops will be pulled out to make sure Remain wins the second one.

  9. John Guilfoyle Says:

    Thanks Rohan…that makes for interesting speculation on the part of non-Brtis like me who have a vested interest in Westminster Parliamentary proceedings.

    If May was traditionally supposed to be a caretaker, then she had 1 job…get Brexit done.

    Her calculus about a snap election to confirm her legitimacy was wrong then. That wasn’t caretaking, that was mission creep & it blew up in her face.

    Her legitimacy was that Cameron handed her the reins to get Brexit accomplished…looks like that’s in jeopardy on her watch & someone else is going to have to step up.

    “Boris Johnson, white courtesy phone. Boris Johnson, you have a call on the white courtesy phone!”

  10. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I read somewhere that May had concluded that only a larger majority would provide her with the political clout needed to handle Brexit negotiations with the EU, who are playing hard ball with the Brits. If that is in fact the case, then that seems to me to have been a reasonable gamble to take. Often there are no good choices when confronted with intransigent obstructions. She’s faced with a fractured electorate and a disloyal opposition in Labour. I’m doubtful that the fault lines are bridgeable… by anyone.

  11. John Guilfoyle Says:

    “I dont know if this is May’s miscalculation so much as Trump’s recent visit to Europe.”

    Harry? You’re blaming Trump?

  12. Oldflyer Says:

    Well, many annointed PM May as the new Thatcher, and I applauded. Maybe it was premature; we will see.

    I have always thought the weakness of the Parliamentary system was the prevalence of coalition governments. Britain has been able to avoid that pitfall for the most part (tempted to say forever, but not certain). So, we will see how that works. I presume that the DUP is fairly conservative; and they are small enough that they should not be able to make too many demands.

    Someone suggested that it is a wake up call for her. Hope so.

    Harry, you sound just a little like someone suffering TDS. It is really a bit silly to blame Trump for every one’s problems.

  13. blert Says:

    She called the election so as to have the clout to hold her OWN troops in line.

    The Conservatives ( it’s just an expression, they’re to the left of the Democrats, hereabouts ) were rebelling in the back benches against Brexit.

    That’s why Brexit talks have been so slow-rolled.

    The Big Money in Britain is a vested interest… invested in the European Union.

    The dictatorial nature of Brussels has proved confounding to the British polity.

    It’s BRUSSELS that is forcing “Asians” and other migrants upon Britain… on pain of a 100,000 pound per capital fine per refusal.

    A successful campaign figured to give May a whip hand against the backbenchers.

    ISIS blew her campaign up.

    Every Brit knew that she’d been Home Secretary when the migrant surge was at its peak…

    And Rotherham occurred on her watch, too.

    She’s hapless.

  14. Lorenz Gude Says:

    To grind John Guilfoyle’s point a bit finer there was a critical difference between Turnbull’s calling a snap election and May’s call. Turnbull had challenged PM Tony Abbott for the leadership and won by getting the majority of his party’s MPs to vote for him rather than Abbott. The rough equivalent would be the House Republicans replacing Paul Ryan as Speaker. May was elevated to PM after Cameron resigned because he lost the Brexit vote and then May was elected to the leadership by a vote of the Tory party membership – not just the Tory MPs. As an American who has lived under a parliamentary for half my life (since 1976) I saw May as far less a caretaker PM than Turnbull. She is office legitimately by the vote of her own party’s full membership continuing on the back of a strong Tory performance at the previous election. Much more like a US VP. She didn’t stab her predecessor in the back and she was there to carry though Brexit. She tried to strengthen her position against an unpopular opposition leader, who suddenly got his mojo back while she revealed herself to be a more a mediocrity than a Thatcher Mark 2. So far Nigel Farage said he most salient thing I have heard. He pointed out that she was a mild remainer and didn’t wholeheartedly believe in Brexit and that the job needed someone who did believe in it. I see that Drudge is reporting that Boris Johnson – the actual leader of the brexit campaign is making noises about challenging May for the leadership. That makes sense. If he does become PM he would be more in need of a legitimating election but would be a fool to risk it. May’s job and that of any successor is to complete Brexit.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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