In calling for a special election, she risks a sure term of three years for the chance of five years and a more united post-Brexit Britain.
In the recent Brexit campaign, Theresa May confirmed an already settled reputation as a political leader whose watchword was caution. She was thought to lean privately toward Brexit. She prudently opted for the position held by the majority of the cabinet: Remain. She made one not-very-helpful speech supporting EU membership — and left it at that. And after Leave won the vote and David Cameron resigned, she ran successfully for the Tory leadership on a platform of accepting the electorate’s verdict and going unambiguously for Brexit even if the only version on offer was a so-called hard Brexit. There is caution a-plenty in that record; but there is also a clear evolution toward firmness and decision, especially at moments of crisis.
Prime Minister May’s decision yesterday to call for an early election on June 8 demonstrates that decisiveness. There is undoubtedly a strong case, in both national and partisan terms, for an early election. May’s government has a small parliamentary majority that might in theory be whittled away in by-election losses and, on Brexit, in rebellions from the small coterie of ultra-Remainers on the Tory benches. She is faced also by a hostile anti-Brexit majority in the unelected House of Lords that would happily take advantage of any government reverses to delay or halt the progress toward Brexit.