The lady IS for U-turning: All those times Theresa May said she wouldn’t call a snap general election

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Theresa May general election statement
Theresa May makes the shock announcement from Downing Street on Tuesday

She said it so many times perhaps even she believed it was true.

Theresa May has spent the past number of months saying the next general election would happen… in 2020.

So when the prime minister stood outside Downing Street today and announced plans for a snap election in June, she will have known she would be immediately hammered by her critics.

She said her dramatic reverse had been made ‘recently and reluctantly’, but it still amounts to an embarrassing U-turn.

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She continuously insisted she was not interested in calling a snap poll, pointing to a number of reasons for holding off on a general election in 2017.

Mrs May said it was more important to ‘deal with the issues the country is facing’, an unveiled reference to negotiating Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Any immediate general election would be a distraction from Brexit, she reasoned, at a time when the country wants its politicians to concentrate on carrying out the job of securing a good deal for the UK outside the EU.

Another reason to hold off was the state of the so-called opposition, with many Tories holding the view that a crisis-hit Labour would have no chance of getting its house in order in time to mount an effective campaign by 2020.

But with Labour’s stock at an all-time low, Conservatives have decided to hit them hard at the ballot box as soon as possible.

Mrs May’s announcement this morning was a surprise because of its timing but also because she has denied so many times that she would call a snap election.

She had dismissed the idea even before she was prime minister – during her bid for the Conservative leadership in June 2016, she said: ‘There should be no general election until 2020.

‘There should be a normal autumn statement held in the normal way, at the normal time, and no emergency budget.’

By September, that view hadn’t changed. She said then: ‘I’m not going to be calling a snap election.

‘I’ve been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability, to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020.’

A month later she said a snap vote would risk ‘instability’ during a politically delicate period.

And as recently as last month, Number 10 said of a snap election: ‘It’s not going to happen. It’s not something she plans to do or wishes to do.’

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