Prime Minister Boris Johnson called his snap election for December 12 2019 – instead of leaving the European Union as he promised to do on October 31.
He wanted to make the election about getting his Brexit.
The Liberal Democrats (with 20 MPs as the election started) and the Scottish National Party (35 seats) also wanted to make it about Brexit – but about stopping it.
The main Opposition Labour Party wanted to make it about transforming UK society.
So in a much divided UK, the first election days brought signals of a rocky road ahead:
– a highly controversial intervention by U.S. President Donald Trump
– a £500,000 fine accepted by Facebook for its involvement in the Cambridge Analytica voter manipulation scandal in the last election in 2017
– a controversial finding by an inquiry into the searing Grenfell Tower fire that same year blaming the fire department in its first report rather than the government authorities responsible for its management.
Despite a healthy but questionable lead in recent public opinion polls Johnson faced a difficult job to keep a volatile electorate focussed on Brexit.
And it was by no means clear it would end in any clearer political direction as a minority government seemed possible.
Before getting Parliamentary approval for the vote – required because of a law setting fixed term elections every five years – Johnson had lost virtually every other vote he had sought since being forced to recall Parliament on September 25 by a Supreme Court ruling.
Although he did get approval in principle for his surprise deal to withdraw from the EU – because MPs opposed to it wanted to bring in amendments to make it acceptable to them.
Johnson withdrew the bill before it could be fully debated, leaving both his deal and Brexit itself in limbo.
Rolling the dice
Snap election call
Liberal Democrat hopes
Trump Brexit and Johnson
Grenfell fire inquiry
Result hard to predict
Public opinion polls
Litany of defeats