Theresa May’s snap election, scheduled for 8 June, was unlikely for three big reasons. Holding off until 2020 would allow the Tories to take advantage of boundary changes that come into force in 2018. There’s a fixed-term parliament act, which is a major complicating factor (Labour will probably have to back a vote in the Commons to allow this election to take place at all). Most of all, she staked a large chunk of her credibility on not U-turning on her decision that there wouldn’t be one. Until this morning, her reputation for unwavering unflappability looked justified.
Here are five occasions on which the Prime Minister personally, or her staff, denied that there were plans for an election. She may be heading for a landslide, but her party – and the public – will remember not to take her at her word in future…
30 June 2016, as she stood for the Tory leadership: ‘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.’
12 July, to Tory party staffers: ‘Let us redouble our efforts. And let us make sure we put this time to good use, to build the support we need to go to the country in four years’ time, and not just win, but win big.’
3 September 2016, speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr: ‘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.’
7 March 2017, responding to William Hague’s calls for an election, a No 10 source tells the BBC it is not something Prime Minister Theresa May ‘plans to do or wishes to do’.
20 March 2017, her official spokesman says: ‘There is no change in our position on an early general election, that there isn’t going to be one… It is not going to happen… We have been clear that there isn’t going to be an early general election and the Prime Minister is getting on with delivering the will of the British people.’