What, the Pundit Establishment wondered, was our not at all unelected Prime Minister doing making a statement outside 10 Downing Street at 1115 hours this morning? It couldn’t be one of the Royal Family shuffling off, as that would be someone else’s announcement. Was she resigning? Going to war with, oh I dunno, Spain, North Korea, Iran, or perhaps all three at the same time, just to make sure?
But no: Ms May wanted us all to know that she is of ever-flexible principles. Having told anyone who wanted to know that she would not go to the country until 2020, as there was no need to do so, she had at least caved in to all her fellow Tories who had read the opinion poll runes and slavered over the prospect of doing to Jeremy Corbyn rather more than what Mrs T did to Michael Foot in 1983 - dishing out utter and total humiliation.
And Jezza, bless his ever-optimistic cotton socks, has gone along with the idea, and so, it appears, has Lib Dem leader Tim Farron. So what the SNP and all the other parties think of the move will be irrelevant - there should be no problem securing the 391 MPs passing through the appropriate Lobby when the vote is taken tomorrow. Thus the Fixed Term Parliament Act is shown to be another less than useful piece of paper.
So why is Ms May performing her latest U-Turn now? The economy has been doing reasonably well, unemployment is at an apparently historically low level, and our free and fearless press keeps telling us that with a departure from the EU on the horizon, there is all that Vision And Boundless Hope And Optimism to look forward to.’
Ah well. Theresa May will know that some of those Prime Ministers who inherited the role, and were then voted out at the next General Election, had their chance to call a General Election before things turned bad: Jim Callaghen should have gone to the country in Autumn 1978, and had he done so, the humiliation of the Winter of Discontent would have been avoided. Also, Margaret Thatcher would have been a mere footnote in history.
Gordon Brown missed his opportunity in Autumn 2007: after that, he was always on a losing streak, with the financial crisis hitting the UK, and not enough time to see the economy recover. Theresa May does not only worry that the economy will turn down - she knows it is a racing certainty, as inflation ramps up, jobs leave for other EU member states, natural resources diminish, and as a result recession takes hold.
Yes, it’s going to get worse. And there is little prospect of other than a Tory victory, unless Jeremy Corbyn can pull an oversize rabbit from an even larger hat, or perhaps come to a deal with the Lib Dems on where to concentrate their firepower. Neither prospect is a likely one. After all, it’s not really about the country “coming together”. It’s about cynical opportunism, and the Tories inflicting a shellacking on Labour.
The result may be closer than current opinion polls suggest. But, barring a miracle, Jezza and his party are about to get buried - in a grave of their own making.