By Diane Abbott
Theresa May’s announcement of a snap election is one of the most unscrupulous election announcements of modern times. Over and over again she has ruled out an early vote. As recently as last month, her spokesman said: “It’s not something she plans to do or wishes to do.” So it is important to be clear that this snap election is not about the good of the country. It is about the good of Theresa May. With a majority of only 12 and a party that is more split on Brexit than the public realises, she has decided to cut and run.
The British voting public don’t like unnecessary general elections, and this is the definition of one. It is all about the internal management of the Conservative party. Some will recall Edward Heath and the 1974 general election. It was called in response to the miners’ strike and the resultant three-day week. Heath intended to get a mandate to face down the miners and his slogan was: “Who governs Britain?” Presented with a totally unnecessary election, British voters said that whoever governed Britain it certainly wasn’t Heath – and the election resulted in a hung parliament. May must hope that her own electoral adventurism does not end in similar ignominy.
But Labour’s election strategy must rest on far more than drawing attention to May’s opportunism. This a fork-in-the-road election for the British people. Up one road lies May’s version of Brexit. Until now she has tried to give the impression that Britain could have its cake and eat it. Fewer “immigrants” but all the benefits of full access to the single market. It is now becoming clear that this cannot happen. May has made it clear that – if it came to it – she would sacrifice jobs, living standards and growth to the chimera of controlling “immigration”.
There can be no doubt that, if May wins a majority in this forthcoming general election, Britain will be subjected to the grimmest of hard Brexits with all the harsh consequences for jobs and the economy.
The Brexit debate has been hugely divisive. But Labour represents not only some of the most passionately pro-remain constituencies in the country but also some of the most fiercely leave constituencies. And only Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party has the capacity to bring the country together with a vision of Brexit that genuinely protects job and communities.
There should also be some discussion in this campaign about Theresa May’s values and how they contrast with those of the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn. Anybody interested in Britain’s place in the world will have noted that May is, both figuratively and literally, hand in hand with US president Donald Trump. After the recent Trump posturing about North Korea, it will be clear to many voters that if you are concerned about world peace, you have to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.
There is no question that Labour goes into this general election against terrible headwinds. We have endured months of internal division and have been at the receiving end of visceral hostility by inhabitants of the Westminster bubble and the left-liberal establishment. But this country has never needed a Labour government more. And we go into this general election fighting to win.
Diane Julie Abbott, a member of the Brtish Labour Party, is Shadow Home Secretary