Well, we were wrong about an election before 2020, although so was nearly everyone else. Our reasoning was sound enough at the time. It also seems as if our reasoning or something like it held until very recently indeed. We can hang on tenuously to the fact that in March we were right that it would not be in May! It will be on June 8th. So what changed in what appears to be a matter of a few days after the Prime Minister gave out such a firm signal that she would seek her mandate after the Brexit negotiations on the date set by the Parliament Act?
We should take her reasoning at face value. Attempts by the Opposition to pin this down to a simple matter of party advantage do not ring true. After all, she is taking a risk. The result is not foregone. Rebellious Tory backbenchers on Brexit would appear to add management burdens but, after the solid Party support for the Invocation of Article 50, there would have to be a major departure from what she has said to date to see a substantive rebellion and her right wing element could be countered with opposition support if there were any softening of tactics or strategy towards the EU.
At the core of this are two main concerns - that the Opposition and Lords are not taking the vote on June 23rd to be a serious expression of the national will and are giving 'comfort to the enemy' through their constant sniping at her strategy and that the actual settlement in 2019 may create a war on two fronts in public just as she is preparing for the 2020 Election, with the Right claiming she has sold out and the reviving Left continuing to condemn any failure to accommodate pro-EU sentiment at home with a 'softer' Brexit deal.
The latter is a concern with the future of her Party as the Party of Government but the former can arguably be seen as a matter of the national interest. To some people, continuing to fight the democratic mandate and undercutting a negotiation in that national interest can look like something two steps away from treachery, to the people and to the nation, as if part of Parliament continued to seek accommodation with Hitler after the declaration of war in 1939. What she had failed to do was create a national coalition to see through Brexit as the existential choice of the 'demos'.
What we suspect she had been working towards may have been naive - the separation of Brexit from other contentious policies so that the Opposition would work with the Government on the first but continue to struggle with it on the second. David Davis' contribution to today's World At One seemed to contain the germ of that idea. There were some signs in the past that Corbyn would not be averse to that. He also was a Left Brexiter at heart. His main message even today was that the election should be fought on a People's Brexit, on economic policy and against austerity.
The trouble was that Corbyn's Parliamentary Party was more aligned with the almost fanatical Liberal Democrats, the SNP with their ulterior nationalist motives and with the Greens whose agenda have always trumped democracy. The trimming required to hold Labour together meant that there could be no 'shared understanding' on Brexit in which the detail of the repeal bills that affected domestic affairs could be fought over but the formal negotiations allowed to proceed as an implicitly national enterprise. Parliament was just too divided so May has decided to gamble all on the voters.