May, the reluctant gambler?

By Lindsay McGarvie, Director, 3x1 Group

WESTMINSTER is a difficult place to keep a secret. The bars and tearooms of the mother of parliaments has always been a hotbed of whisperings, briefings, leaks and gossip.

There was a time when secrets existed in politics. When reshuffles and budgets were closely guarded to be unveiled on the day of these events of the political calendar. But these days we’ve come to expect to read or hear juicy details of these big set piece announcements in advance through the press or social media, killing the drama of the past.

Against the backdrop of spin and leaked stories that is now the norm, the Prime Minister’s snap election announcement last Tuesday morning at 11.05am is impressive.

It’s not often these days that the press pack of the Westminster “Lobby” are caught flat-footed. Anybody that claims they predicted a snap election is at it. The first anybody outside Mrs May’s Cabinet and inner circle knew there was something big afoot was when reports started to filter out mid-morning that there would be a press conference outside Number 10.

At that point the airwaves went in to meltdown. The press pack hurriedly gathered at Downing Street and fevered speculation began to mount that after months of insisting she wouldn’t seek a general election before the scheduled 2020 vote, Mrs May might actually be about to do a screeching U-turn.

But equally just moments before the PM made her announcement, some journalists were mooting that she might be about to resign! One sharp-eyed 3x1 colleague spotted that the odds for a 2017 election tumbled to 1/3 and then stopped taking bets half-an-hour before the PM spoke. The bookies don’t often get it wrong.

Election announcement made, jaws picked up off the ground by the assembled hacks, not to mention MPs from up and down the UK, the analysis of the whys and wherefores of the decision began.

For those of us living in Scotland, most reacted like Brenda from Bristol, throwing our arms up in exasperation at the dizzying speed that that the electoral hamster wheel continues to spin at. When the polls open on 8 June the people of Scotland will have been asked to vote in six elections in the space of 34 months. A few brave souls even turned out for the European elections in May 2014!

So brace yourselves for 48 days of party political bombardment by beaming politicians on our streets, doorsteps, airwaves, social media and maybe even in a televised leader’s debate.

Soon we’ll know whether Mrs May’s gamble to try and trounce Jeremy Corbyn’s beleaguered Labour Party and emerge with a hugely inflated majority is a winner.