University of East Anglia expert Chris Hanretty’s shock at calling of an early general election

Chris Hanretty, University of East Anglia academic who will be routinely appearing on Newsnight in t

Chris Hanretty, University of East Anglia academic who will be routinely appearing on Newsnight in the run up to the 2015 general election - Credit: Archant

A University of East Anglia (UEA) polling expert has expressed his shock at the Prime Minister calling a snap election this morning.

Chris Hanretty, University of East Anglia academic who will be routinely appearing on Newsnight in t

Chris Hanretty, University of East Anglia academic who will be routinely appearing on Newsnight in the run up to the 2015 general election - Credit: Archant

Chris Hanretty, a reader in politics and election forecaster, said Theresa May's announcement came as a surprise, considering her previous denials an early election would be called.

Mr Hanretty said: 'It was unexpected because I guess when a Prime Minister says repeatedly something will not be happening, then you kind of think it probably won't happen.

'There was a lot of early speculation she might call an early election, but when that went away everyone thought the issue was discussed and rejected. Now it seems they have kept thinking about it.'

Before becoming Prime Minister and throughout her time in the role, Mrs May had repeatedly ruled out an early election under her leadership.

Just before she became Prime Minister she ruled it out and again on June 30 - while launching her bid.

MORE: Theresa May calls snap general election to be held on June 8

Then, once in office, she told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: '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.'

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As recently as last month, Downing Street said an early election was 'not going to happen'.

But Mr Hanretty said the fact no one had known about the turnaround was a 'testament to Theresa May's inner circle', as political pundits were left in the dark about the announcement.

LIVE: East Anglia's business leaders react to Theresa May calling snap general election

'The polling right now is favourable for the Conservatives,' he said, adding they were in the strongest position for 30 years.

'That's good for the party and could be good for the country as she would be hamstrung by having to placate backbenchers.'

But he said he did not think an early election would change anything on an international scale.

'European leaders are not going to say the nonnegotiable items are suddenly negotiable just because she calls a general election,' he said.

Mr Hanretty said he felt the election would be a 'safe bet' for the Tories.

'It would have to be a disastrous campaign for them not to improve,' he added.

His concern was because of the short timeframe, the logistics of the election could be rushed - he pointed to things such as writing manifestos, leaders debates and selecting candidates.

He added: 'I'm slightly concerned that an already demanding timeline for Article 50 negotiations suddenly got six to eight weeks shorter - who negotiates seriously at a time like this?

'It's going to have to go at 120mph and it's going to be difficult for people to keep up - including me.'

And former University of East Anglia lecturer Dr Nick Wright, who is now at University College London, said there was a danger the public could have a case of 'election fatigue'.

He said, with Theresa May 'renowned for playing her cards close to her chest', it was a major surprise that the announcement had come out of the blue.

He said: 'If today's polling figures were translated into seats, the Conservatives would be in with a significant majority and Labour would be facing a 1983-esque result in terms of a political wipeout.

'The Lib Dems will be rubbing their hands with gdlee at the prospect of picking up a lot of the frustrated Remain votes of people who have lost faith in the Labour party an really want to send a message to Theresa May about the Brexit negotiations.'

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