“You can only deliver Brexit if you believe in Brexit,” said Mrs. May in the early days of the general election. This was a lady who openly supported the ‘Remain’ campaign before the Referendum and recently ran a general election in support of the ‘Leave’ campaign. A contradiction, Mrs. May!
I should think so. “Set free from the shackles of EU control, we will be a great global trading nation once again bringing new jobs and new opportunities for ordinary working families here at home,” Mrs. May boasted. There were supposed to have been two issues in this election, Mrs. May’s persona and Brexit. But now, after the results of the opportunistic elections on June 8 there will be no more talk about a ‘hard’ Brexit and some humility may at last creep into the public utterances by those occupying Downing Street. As the broadcaster Jon Snow said, “a hard Brexit is now dead”.
But what about Mrs. May’s slogans: “Brexit means Brexit”, “No deal is better than a bad deal”, “Take back control”, “I’m a bloody difficult woman”? What about David Davis’ boast that if the U.K. doesn’t get what it wants at the negotiations, “We will just walk away”? These trite slogans were all branded about throughout the elections and it must be asked if they contributed to the loss of the Conservative lead which was over 20% at the beginning of the campaign. Now there is a hung parliament. One newspaper’s headline put it the day after the results, “Mayday! Mayday!” which summed up Mrs May’s plight succinctly.
An interesting point struck about leadership styles during the campaign. Mrs. May, and many of her spokespeople, continuously insulted Jeremy Corbyn, trying at every opportunity to humiliate him. Corbyn never responded in kind. As the personal insults came from the Conservatives, Corbyn carried on as if he hadn’t heard them. People noted this. We may not appreciate his policies, but the policy to personally insult and degrade him at every turn certainly didn’t work for the Conservatives. This wasn’t the media, it was Conservative politicians. But what do you do when there is a negative campaign being run by opposing politicians and media against you?
To beat this negative media coverage, Jeremy Corbyn held meetings day and night, and this provided many people with the opportunity to see and hear him, and ultimately make up their own minds. This is what Bernie Sanders in the United States did, and also Donald Trump. Corbyn was perceived by many, and especially by younger people, as a nice man who was genuine, and campaigned on his policies in a straightforward way using plain and understandable language.
Corbyn gave the impression that he believed in what he was saying on such policies as nationalising transport and other public services. [Of course, I would not agree with him personally.] Never once did he cross the line of personal insult, which I admired. Many Tories are furious with Mrs. May and ask, “Where are the 100 extra seats she bragged about some seven weeks ago today?” Now they depend on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for survival.
Mrs. May runs a tight ship, and is more presidential than prime ministerial. Probably this is the reason we see headings such as “Me Me Me, My My My” where the main focus is clearly on her. For example, she published the party manifesto without consulting the party (not even her cabinet). According to some commentators, there is little trust between her and some of her cabinet colleagues. Now because she doesn’t have a majority she has entered an arrangement with DUP (Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland) to form the next government. Ironically it is a twist of history that she should end up depending on a group of people whom she knows little about.
Who are the DUP? The DUP was founded by the Protestant fundamentalist leader, the late Ian Paisley, in 1971. It has strong links with the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster and is considered as extremely socially conservative and Eurosceptic, but the DUP are now reluctantly advocating a soft Brexit (we must remember they were ‘Pro Leave’ in the Referendum) mainly to protect their supporters’ economic interests.
How moderate conservatives, who are mostly on the ‘Remain’ side, will view this arrangement we will have to wait and see. In the DUP manifesto, for example, we see mention of such aims as greater display of British symbolism, promoting the Orange Order and Ulster Scots, staging a special British Armed Forces Day in Northern Ireland and on and on. Any move by Mrs. May to make concessions to this bunch of social conservatives will be seen as tantamount to abandoning the Good Friday Agreement on the future of Northern Ireland. Is this what the Conservatives Party wants? No, but necessity is the mother of invention. There were small protests on the streets of London last night about the upcoming alliance with the DUP.
In an effort to survive, Mrs May has sacked her two close advisors, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, and reshuffled her cabinet, which she hopes will heal some of the wounds within her party. The advisors, it is claimed, were responsible for both releasing the Conservative policy document with such contentious issues as the dementia tax and a cap on medical costs, and planning her campaign.
Boris Johnson is now the bookie’s 2 to 1 favourite to replace Mrs. May, but others such as David Davis and Amber Rudd may have other thoughts. Either way, Britain is now a very unsettled country. Nevertheless, the case of Mrs. Theresa May is one where ambition and opportunity have landed her in a leadership role for which she is completely unsuited. So, I suspect, sooner or later we will be saying Goodbye to Mrs. May and wishing her well in retirement.