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On a bright, breezy morning in Downing Street, with her hair blowing upwards in a manner faintly suggestive of ostrich plumes, Theresa May called a general election.

She achieved total surprise. On Twitter, a number of reputable figures had just insisted she would not call an election. Only Laura Kuenssberg, of the BBC, reported a few minutes in advance that we could expect an election on 8th June.

Nor do I recall a single political columnist predicting this in recent days. Nor, to be frank, did I predict it. She has caught us off balance, seized the initiative and set her own timetable, while also doing something that looks utterly obvious.

How unaccustomed the parliamentary Lobby is to having to listen to a politician to hear what she or he is going to say. Mrs May has in her short time in Number Ten created this advantage for herself, and this morning she used it to the full.

For this was a moment when she could have been dismissed as a flagrant opportunist, cutting and running because she is miles ahead in the polls.

She did indeed say in her statement she had “only recently and reluctantly come to the conclusion” that an election is needed. By making this admission, she guarded her reputation as a straight talker.

And what a formidable case she made for going now: “The country is coming together but Westminster is not.”

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and unelected members of the House of Lords have said they will do everything they can to impede Brexit. But here stands a tall figure in a dark dress who tells the world “you do not treat politics as a game”.

I am serious, the Prime Minister shows, and Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron are not: to say that would be ridiculous, for it does not need saying. The Prime Minister nevertheless misses no chance to demonstrate the truth of those words.

She is the one person who can offer “strong and stable leadership” and get the Brexit job done: “every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain”.

Back she went into Downing Street, leaving behind her “almost a stunned silence”, as one of the television people put it.

As an exercise in entrenching her dominance of British politics, this performance could not have been improved upon. How can her opponents, who claim that they not she represent the best interests of the British people, resist her call for an election?

If the Lib Dems establish themselves as the only principled Remainers on the ballot paper, perhaps they can win back some of their lost seats. But nothing, one would have thought, can save Corbyn now.

17 comments for: Andrew Gimson’s sketch: The Prime Minister achieved total surprise

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