The world’s greatest foreign correspondent John Fisher Burns joined me from the U.K. this AM to discuss Prime Minister May’s decision to call an election in Great Britain on June 8:
HH: The news of the morning comes from Great Britain, where Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap election on June 8th. She will table the motion tomorrow. She needs 2/3rds of the members of Parliament to move forward with the election. Joining me now from Great Britain, John Fisher Burns, twice a Pulitzer Prize winner, longtime foreign correspondent for the New York Times, greatest war journalist, I think, alive in the world. John Fisher Burns, welcome, thanks for making time for us on short notice, but this is big news today from Great Britain.
JB: It’s a big surprise, Hugh, not least because Theresa May has repeatedly said since she took office last year, nearly 12 months ago now, that she would not call a general election before the due date for such an election in 2020. The turnaround today has already had some of the leading political commentators in this country using that buzzword now apparently favored in American politics, she lied. But it’s pretty plain that she had very persuasive reasons for doing what she did.
HH: Can you expand and explain what those reasons are, aware that we have Pittsburgh Steeler people in our audience that need a slow education in what it means to run a snap election in Great Britain? And they don’t always turn out the way you expect.
JB: Well, first of all, a government at a general election in normal circumstances has a five year mandate. This government took office less than two years ago on a rather narrow majority. At that time, the Prime Minister was David Cameron. He was unseated by an election that took place last year, a referendum on the European Union. David Cameron wanted Britain to remain in the European Union. The majority of voters, a narrow majority, voted out. So Theresa May inherited the leadership of the Conservative Party and the post of prime minister without herself having a popular mandate. So one of the reasons why she will have done this today is that she’s entering into very complicated, very uncertain negotiations with the European Union over Britain’s departure from the European Union without a personal mandate, a matter for which she has been rebuked numerous times, not least by the prime minister of Scotland, the first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, who very much wants Britain to remain part of the European Union. So that’s part of the reason. The other thing is that there are elections coming in this year, very soon in France, the presidential election, an election in Germany in the autumn, which may or may not return Angela Merkel to power. As you know, the United States has a new president, and I think she wanted to have the authority that a fresh mandate at a general election would give her for international negotiations, and give her a firmer standing on the international stage.