Welcome to the latest edition of This Week on Twitter for Westminster HUB where we take a look at the week’s biggest political news and controversies through the eyes of Twitter. This week there was only one story that dominated the political landscape as Theresa May called a snap general election. The move which shocked journalists, politicians and the public alike was announced on the steps of Downing Street on Tuesday despite numerous denials previously from Mrs May that an election would not happen before 2020.
The rest of the week saw parties across the political spectrum playing catch up as politicians announced if they would be standing, campaigns were launched and predictions were made. The snap election news was the hot topic across social media with users reacting to every twist and turn even in the opening days of the campaign.
Snap Election Called
On Tuesday at 11.15am Theresa May appeared outside of the famous black door of 10 Downing Street and shocked the country by announcing a snap general election would take place on June 8th. Social media was just as shocked as users took to their Twitter accounts to express their thoughts, one user that attracted a lot of attention was former Prime Minister David Cameron who praised ‘brave’ Theresa May.
One other well known Twitter user expressed his views as Larry the Downing Street cat took to his account to talk to members of the press who would have to cancel holidays after Theresa May’s announcement.
Among the first to react were the Liberal Democrats who very quickly revealed that they would not only support an early election but revealed some election posters and slogans only minutes after Theresa May’s announcement.
Debate Over TV Debates
Before the day was over the first battle ground of the election campaign had begun as Theresa May announced that she would not be taking part in televised election debates which provoked an angry reaction from the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who probably realised it was one of his biggest opportunities to change momentum.
The BBC and ITV looked set to cause problems for the Prime Minister however as it appeared that they were keen to hold debates and threatened to do so with or without Theresa May involved. This stance seemed to be popular on Twitter as TV debates have grown to be a feature of election campaigns in the past decade.
Some political commentators thought that Theresa May was making a wise move by avoiding the debates as they presented an excellent opportunity for the leader of the opposition to make gains. The New Statesman’s Stephen Bush thought that Corbyn often performs well in the Question Time style debates, especially after his practice with them during leadership challenges.
Tim Farron also commented on Theresa May’s decision to avoid the televised debates by bringing up his and Mrs May’s famous election defeat when they both stood in the same constituency. The current Liberal Democrat leader asked the current Prime Minister why she wouldn’t debate with him like they did in 1992.
To Stand or Not to Stand?
The shock announcement forced some politicians in to a decision that they thought they had years to think about, whether to stand for re-election or not? For some it seemed a relatively easy decision, such as Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop, who needed only minutes to declare that he would not stand again citing strong differences with his leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Another Labour MP announcing that he would not stand for re-election was Alan Johnson. He received a warm response from most on Twitter with many declaring that he would be a big loss for Labour and one of the best leaders Labour never had. Other Labour MP’s who announced that they would not be standing again included leading Brexiteer Gisela Stuart and Hartlepool MP Iain Wright who held a small majority over UKIP in his constituency.
Possibly the most famous, or potentially infamous, MPs standing down was former Chancellor George Osborne who announced he would not be standing again in his Tatton constituency. The new editor of the London Evening Standard announced that he would be leaving politics ‘for now’ leaving the door open to a potential return in the future. Mr Osborne received a much colder reaction to his announcement than that of Alan Johnson.
After the resignations or defeats for David Cameron, George Osborne and Danny Alexander, it left just one politician from 2015 and the famous Downing Street garden announcement, Nick Clegg. The Sheffield MP announced that unlike his fellow coalition leaders he would be standing for re-election and made light of how this left him as the last person standing from that era.
On Thursday Douglas Carswell, an MP that splits opinion, decided that he would also not be standing in the snap election. Carswell, famous for defecting from the Conservatives to UKIP before recently quitting the party announced that he would not be standing for election but he would however be voting Conservative. Sunday morning politics presenter, Robert Peston, summed up what many people might think of the MP.
The election and local elections will dominate the political landscape for the next two months until mid-June when the country will know who will lead Brexit negotiations. In the next fortnight there will be continuing discussions over TV debates, manifestos will be finalised and in just under two weeks the first signals from the electorate will be known through local election results.
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