Category Archives: Politics
Comment Writer Jamie Aspden, a third year political science student at the University of Birmingham, argues that that the Conservative Party Conference was the conclusive sign that the government needs to change. A ‘wake-up call’ – read the article here: http://www.redbrick.me/comment/brexit/conservative-party-just-managing/. Some extracts follow.
“For the first time in decades Britain faces the possibility of a truly socialist government, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn”.
After referring to the lost majority and questionable DUP deal, a Cabinet at war with themselves, little good news along the way and detailing the conference mishaps Aspden comments, “Theresa May has just about managed to get through it, whilst being tripped up by countless political debacles”. He ends:
“If the Conservative Party wishes to keep its reputation as one of the oldest, greatest and most successful political parties in the free world, it needs to get its act together and fast. The cost of indecision is too high.
“The United Kingdom can no longer afford this brand of governance. As at this time, when it faces some of the greatest challenges since the Second World War: an ageing population, a changing climate and the departure from the EU, we need a, dare I say it, ’strong and stable’ government. One with innovative and inspired ideas, and with the unity and discipline needed to enact them. ‘Just about managing’ will no longer cut it.
“For the first time in decades Britain faces the possibility of a truly socialist government, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. A party which is ‘just about managing’ to hold itself together is of little use in the fight against such an opposition. Instead the party must unite and move forward as one. If not, the electorate will never forgive it for falling apart right at the moment it needed to come together.
“The country deserves and needs a government that succeeds, and it needs it now”.
Corbyn counters proposals which would mean marooned older people with lower incomes, spending more on heating
Today the Times reports that Jeremy Corbyn will reaffirm his party’s commitment to the concessionary travel scheme on his tour of marginal seats in Scotland.
The SNP has confirmed plans to raise the age at which Scots become eligible from 60 so that only those eligible for a state pension have a free pass – which is fine for those still employed . . . Ministers say it would protect the long-term viability of the scheme, which costs taxpayers £192 million a year.
Mr Corbyn plans to meet pensioners in Fife today and is expected to say: “Labour will protect pensioner incomes, by legislating to keep the triple lock, protecting the pensions of over one million Scottish pensioners . . . We’ll protect benefits like the free bus pass and the winter fuel allowance.”
An octogenarian reader who has an income slightly above the national average wage and uses only public transport, comments that her life would be adversely affected. As bus fares are so high she would limit journeys to two a week.
Millions of pensioners on lower incomes would be marooned in their locality most of the time – a locality which might or might not meet everyday needs as cuts close post offices and libraries.
How can affluent Conservative politicians (above, MP Kenneth Clarke) even contemplate such inhumane measures, whilst increasing capital gains and corporation tax relief to the affluent?
- Angela Smith – noted for her place in the 2009 expenses scandal – backed the vote of no confidence in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn which led to the leadership election, in which Corbyn was re-elected as leader
- Graham Jones on record as saying he could not serve under Mr Corbyn as he was from the “extreme left” and did not hold Labour’s “true values”
As the Times and some Labour MPs try to provoke Jeremy Corbyn over the situation in Venezuela – ‘damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t’ – it must be galling for them to see that public favour has never been higher.
Right wing media grudgingly acknowledges Corbyn’s power to draw huge crowds and hundreds of website readers from 36 other countries visited (left – a record number): “Jeremy Corbyn rocks Glastonbury’ – Murdoch resumes the ‘bashathon’ “
Crowds again turned out in Hastings, Southampton ( below), Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival, the Durham Miners Gala and London.
And even more striking because less transient, news forwarded by Felicity Arbuthnot, that an 8ft-tall artwork depicting North Islington MP and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been unveiled on the side of a pub in Archway. The artist, Sam Collins, spent a month on the mural, crafted by putting together A3 plywood squares painted at his studio.
Tony Cullen, the owner said “I’ve never seen someone so honest and willing to be accountable. I love that he’s changing the political landscape, moving it to ordinary people away from elites . . . Jeremy seemed very embarrassed, but he said [he] appreciates the quality of the art – it really captured him.”
Too much saccharine? Turn to the readers of the Times, who say that JC draws ‘Fake crowds’, is a cult leader, IRA-lover and supporter of Islamofascist terrorist murderers.
A more understated reaction: ‘The face of honest politics’.
Professor Paul Rogers’ reference to the Corbyn’s Chatham House speech in May, in his recent article: ‘Corbyn’s Labour: now look outwards’ prompted a search for a transcript, found on The Spectator’s website.
In his Chatham House speech, Jeremy Corbyn set out how a Labour Government he leads will keep Britain safe, reshape relationships with partners around the world, work to strengthen the United Nations and respond to the global challenges we face in the 21st century. Edited extracts follow, links and emphasis added.
In his final televised 1950s address to the American people as President, Eisenhower gave a stark warning of what he described as “the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex.” “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry”, he said, “can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
You are either for or against what is presented as “strong defence”, regardless of the actual record of what that has meant in practice.
Too much of our debate about defence and security is one dimensional. Alert citizens or political leaders who advocate other routes to security are dismissed or treated as unreliable.
My generation grew up under the shadow of the cold war. On television, through the 1960s and into the seventies, the news was dominated by Vietnam. I was haunted by images of civilians fleeing chemical weapons used by the United States. At the end of the cold war, when the Berlin Wall came down we were told it was the end of history. Global leaders promised a more peaceful, stable world. It didn’t work out like that. Today the world is more unstable than even at the height of the cold war. The approach to international security we have been using since the 1990s has simply not worked.
Regime change wars in Afghanistan Iraq, Libya, and Syria – and Western interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen – have failed in their own terms, and made the world a more dangerous place.
This is the fourth General Election in a row to be held while Britain is at war and our armed forces are in action in the Middle East and beyond. The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite. And they have caused destabilisation and devastation abroad.
Last September, the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee concluded that the Libyan intervention led to political and economic collapse, humanitarian and migrant crises and fuelled the rise of Isis in Africa and across the Middle East. Is that really the way to deliver security to the British people? Who seriously believes that’s what real strength looks like?
We need to step back and have some fresh thinking. The world faces huge problems. As well as the legacy of regime change wars, there is a dangerous cocktail of ethnic conflicts, of food insecurity, water scarcity, the emerging effects of climate change. Add to that mix a grotesque and growing level of inequality in which just eight billionaires own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people and you end up with a refugee crisis of epic proportions affecting every continent in the world, with more displaced people in the world than since the Second World War. These problems are getting worse and fuelling threats and instability. The global situation is becoming more dangerous.
A Labour Government will want a strong and friendly relationship with the United States. But we will not be afraid to speak our mind. The US is the strongest military power on the planet by a very long way. It has a special responsibility to use its power with care and to support international efforts to resolve conflicts collectively and peacefully.
No more hand holding with Donald Trump.
The new US President seems determined to add to the dangers by recklessly escalating the confrontation with North Korea, unilaterally launching missile strikes on Syria, opposing President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran and backing a new nuclear arms race.
Waiting to see which way the wind blows in Washington isn’t strong leadership. And pandering to an erratic Trump administration will not deliver stability. When Theresa May addressed a Republican Party conference in Philadelphia in January she spoke in alarmist terms about the rise of China and India and of the danger of the West being eclipsed. She said America and Britain had to ‘stand strong’ together and use their military might to protect their interests. This is the sort of language that led to calamity in Iraq and Libya and all the other disastrous wars that stole the post-Cold War promise of a new world order.
I do not see India and China in those terms. Nor do I think the vast majority of Americans or British people want the boots of their young men and women on the ground in Syria fighting a war that would escalate the suffering and slaughter even further. Britain deserves better than simply outsourcing our country’s security and prosperity to the whims of the Trump White House.
A Labour Government will conduct a robust and independent foreign policy – made in Britain
A Labour Government would seek to work for peace and security with all the other permanent members of the United Nations security council – the US, China, Russia and France. And with other countries with a major role to play such as India, South Africa, Brazil and Germany.
Reverse the failed ‘bomb first, talk later’ approach to security
I am often asked if as prime minister I would order the use of nuclear weapons. It’s an extraordinary question when you think about it – would you order the indiscriminate killing of millions of people? Would you risk such extensive contamination of the planet that no life could exist across large parts of the world? If circumstances arose where that was a real option, it would represent complete and cataclysmic failure. It would mean world leaders had already triggered a spiral of catastrophe for humankind.
The best defence for Britain is a government actively engaged in seeking peaceful solutions to the world’s problems
Labour is committed actively to pursue disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and we are committed to no first use of nuclear weapons. But to protect the safety and security of our people and our country, my first duty, I know I will have to work with other countries to solve problems, defuse tensions and build collective security.
I am not a pacifist. I accept that military action, under international law and as a genuine last resort, is in some circumstances necessary. But that is very far from the kind of unilateral wars and interventions that have almost become routine in recent times. I will not take lectures on security or humanitarian action from a Conservative Party that stood by in the 1980s – refusing even to impose sanctions – while children on the streets of Soweto were being shot dead in the streets, or which has backed every move to put our armed forces in harm’s way regardless of the impact on our people’s security.
And as the security threats and challenges we face are not bound by geographic borders it is vital that, as Britain leaves the EU, we maintain a close relationship with our European partners alongside our commitment to NATO and spending at least 2% on defence. Deep cuts have seen the Army reduced to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars. From stagnant pay and worsening conditions, to poor housing, the morale of our service personnel and veterans is at rock bottom.
Working with our allies to ensure peace and security in Europe, we will work to halt the drift to confrontation with Russia and the escalation of military deployments across the continent.
There is no need whatever to weaken our opposition to Russia’s human rights abuses at home or abroad to understand the necessity of winding down tensions on the Russia-Nato border and supporting dialogue to reduce the risk of international conflict. We will back a new conference on security and cooperation in Europe and seek to defuse the crisis in Ukraine through implementation of the Minsk agreements.
The next Labour Government will invest in the UK’s diplomatic networks and consular services. We will seek to rebuild some of the key capabilities and services that have been lost as a result of Conservative cuts in recent years.
A Labour Government will refocus Britain’s influence towards cooperation, peaceful settlements and social justice, while Theresa May seeks to build a coalition of risk and insecurity with Donald Trump. To lead this work, Labour has created a Minister for Peace (Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East) who will work across the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change, working hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on international commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
The life chances, security and prosperity of our citizens are dependent on a stable international environment. We will strengthen our commitment to the UN. But we are well aware of its shortcomings, particularly in the light of repeated abuses of the veto power in the UN Security Council. So we will work with allies and partners from around the world to build support for UN reform in order to make its institutions more effective and responsive. And as a permanent member of the Security Council we will provide a lead by respecting the authority of International Law.
There is a clear choice at the next election
Do we continue with the failed policy of continual and devastating military interventions, that have intensified conflicts and increased the terrorist threat, or be willing to step back, learn the lessons of the past and find new ways to solve and prevent conflicts. As Dwight Eisenhower said on another occasion: If people “can develop weapons that are so terrifying as to make the thought of global war almost a sentence for suicide, you would think that man’s intelligence would include also his ability to find a peaceful solution.”
A Labour Government will give leadership in a new and constructive way and that is the leadership we are ready to provide both at home and abroad. In the words of Martin Luther King “The chain reaction of evil – hate – begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark days of annihilation”. I believe we can find those solutions. We can walk the hard yards to a better way to live together on this planet.
Like many others, I have read and appreciated Christian Wolmar’s input on transport issues over the years – HS2 of late. I know nothing of his political views though, and so was intrigued to come across this article a couple of days ago. The last four paragraphs of Wolmar’s thoughtful but pugnacious argument follow:
Labour’s strategy of equivocation on Brexit actually worked on polling day. Far from alienating both sides in the debate, as I had predicted, the party managed, to some extent, to attract both Leavers and Remainers. Suggesting that the benefits of the single market and customs union should be retained while leaving the EU was, however, a conjuring trick that cannot be repeated. At some stage, when Theresa May discovers that she cannot have her cake and eat it, Labour is going to have to decide whether the deal she has negotiated is acceptable or not.
But not now. At the moment, the best strategy is simply to watch the Tories tear themselves apart. This is not Labour’s problem, but theirs. They got us into this mess and therefore they must be held accountable. There is no doubt that once the eight, highly complex Brexit bills start to reach the Commons, then there will be a battle royale between the pro-European and Europhobe wings of the Tory party. It will be a great spectacle but such fights, like boxing matches, are better watched than entered into.
Ultimately, we do not know which way Labour will go. There is no doubt that Corbyn and John McDonnell are sceptical of the present structure and policies of the European Union but that does not necessarily mean they feel Britain’s future is better out of it.
Rather like Corbyn’s brilliant decision to enter the TV leadership debate at the last moment, Labour should wait to pounce until the chaos within government is so apparent that it is about to crumble. My hope is that Labour would then announce it will hold a second referendum because the implications of leaving prove to be so dire, and the advantages so nebulous. But then I have always been an optimist.
Christian Wolmar is a British journalist, author, railway historian and Labour Party politician He is known for his commentary on transport, named as Journalist of the Year in the National Transport Awards in 2007. He is also an advocate for cycling. Wolmar’s books and columns mainly analyse the current state of the British railway industry. He is a critic of rail privatisation and opposes the construction of HS2, the planned high-speed railway between London and Birmingham and further points north.
(Just added to ‘favourites’: https://twitter.com/christianwolmar. No need to sign up- anyone can read this.)
In the latest Political Barb, ‘General Election 2017 – Fox Hunting’ summarised here, Steve Beauchampé asks if anyone has seen Tom Watson – all but invisible since the General Election was called on April 18th:
“We shouldn’t be too surprised however, I’d always imagined that as an avowedly pro-New Labour, anti-Corbynite, Watson’s main focus ahead of June 8th would be developing a strategy to take back control of the party machinery from the several hundred thousand ideologically driven enthusiasts who have joined Labour since summer 2015. This, following the anticipated electoral disaster and subsequent dispatching of Corbyn to the margins of political history.
“So this Labour surge, even should it ultimately fail to deliver the party the opportunity to form a government, is deeply problematical for those in the Parliamentary Labour Party who so readily opposed or otherwise distanced themselves from the man who has suddenly – and quite unexpectedly – become arguably Labour’s biggest asset”
He notes that ‘missing in action’ are various leading Conservatives: Liam Fox, Sajid Javid, Preeti Patel, Andrea Leadsom, even Chancellor Philip Hammond. But Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who stood in for May during a BBC leaders’ debate last Wednesday ‘put in a combative performance’ leaving Theresa May owing her big time . . .
The ‘downgrading’ of chief political advisors Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy and enhanced rôle of chief strategist Lynton Crosby leads Beauchampé to ask: “Ah, would that be the same Lynton Crosby who oversaw Zac Goldsmith’s highly successful London Mayoral bid last year? Or the same Lynton Crosby who oversaw the equally effective Remain campaign for the 2016 EU referendum . . .
His conclusion: “Restoring Theresa May’s self-congratulatory, complacent, personal power grab of a campaign is probably beyond even Crosby. It is fatally tainted, exposed for its galaxy of emptiness and arrogant narcissism and it long ago ran out of road. Ultimately the mass transfer of UKIP votes to the Tories will probably save her, and might yet ensure her a healthy, workable majority. But Theresa May is diminished, with the clock already ticking on her departure date as internal party scores are settled and her enemies prepare to exact revenge. And who would have thought that the Conservatives would be the party we’d be writing this about seven weeks ago!
As for Jeremy Corbyn, blimey, he’s almost become a national treasure.
People in Iraq, Libya and Yemen are desperate for strong and stable government. Theresa May is partly why they don’t have it, says Steve Beauchampé.
Serious examination of Jeremy Corbyn’s activism shows him to have been on the right side of history and ahead of mainstream public opinion time and again, standing up for anti-racist and anti-apartheid causes, refugees and asylum seekers, gender equality, the LGBT community, environmental issues, animal rights and the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and self-expression long before such things gained widespread acceptance.
Corbyn’s attempts to achieve conflict resolution through dialogue with Irish republicans may at times have been naive, but were his actions so dissimilar to the approach adopted around the same time by MI5 and later by John Major, both of whom ultimately realised that a decades-old conflict, whose death toll was inexorably rising, could not be won solely by military means?
But whilst Jeremy Corbyn’s peripheral rôle in the republican cause has been (and continues to be) pored over and examined by his opponents half a lifetime later, the record and judgement of Theresa May with regard to much more recent UK military interventions requires equally forensic scrutiny given her claims to be a fit and proper person to lead Britain.
History’s judgement on this aspect of Theresa May is unlikely to be generous. After first being elected an MP in 1997, she voted in favour of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (having already supported the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in the frenzied post-9/11 atmosphere). Like so many of her colleagues on the opposition Conservative benches at the time, May failed to hold the Blair government to account despite the widely expressed caution of many experts over both the reasons for going to war and the lack of a post-conflict plan to stabilise Iraq. Instead, May limply and dutifully gave her support. What followed for Iraqis has been almost fifteen years of societal breakdown throughout large parts of this once architectural, cultural and scholastic gem of a nation, with swathes of land occupied until recently by Islamic State and a fracturing of the country along religious, sectarian and tribal lines in a way that will be hard, if not impossible, to heal.
By 2011, and as the then Home Secretary in the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government, Theresa May backed the Anglo/Franco-led military action in Libya, which despite its billing as merely creating a no-fly zone to protect civilians and rebel fighters, mainly located in the east of the country, quickly escalated into regime change, culminating in the overthrow and lynching of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Again, as a senior government minister Theresa May ignored warnings that historic tribal divisions, the absence of a strong and stable government or a long-term strategic plan would quickly fracture the country. Six years on and Libya exists in little more than name only. There is no central government, armed militias and feudal warlords hold considerable power, whilst every international Islamist terror group of substance now boasts a flourishing branch office in the country from where they increasingly export their murderous ideologies. And every month, if not every week, scores of desperate migrants, people who long ago lost all control of their lives, drown off the Libyan coast whilst seeking something better than the hell that their lives have spiralled into.
Learning nothing from history and the consequences of her own actions, in August 2013 Theresa May supported Prime Minster David Cameron’s unsuccessful attempt to persuade MPs to back UK air strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The absence yet again of a coherent post-conflict strategy was sufficient for Labour leader Ed Miliband to refuse his party’s support to Cameron, who narrowly lost a House of Commons vote on the issue. The main beneficiaries of such an intervention, with its intention to downgrade Assad’s military capabilities (if not to remove him from power), would likely have been the plethora of extremist groups engaged in the Syrian civil war, principal amongst them the then nascent Islamic State.
Since becoming Prime Minister Theresa May has continued the supply of British made weapons and military expertise to Saudi Arabia for use in its war crime-strewn bombing campaign in Yemen, a campaign which has killed countless numbers of civilians and is fast creating yet another failed state in the region.
Iraq, Libya and increasingly Yemen: countries where British military interventions have created power vacuums swiftly filled by a combination of anarchy, lawlessness, violence and economic depravation, with catastrophic consequences and relentless, unending misery for millions of civilians.
Theresa May supported each and every one of these military interventions. Jeremy Corbyn opposed all of them. So whose judgement would you trust?
May 29th 2017
Written for The BirminghamPress.com, to be online shortly. It Is also available here: https://politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2017/05/29/general-election-2017-peace-policies-and-foreign-follies/
An emboldened Conservative government would indeed be good news for ‘Strong and Stable’ funeral directors, as:
- air pollution continues unabated,
- the health service deteriorates,
- the incidence of adult depression and mental illness in children grows apace
- ‘moral fibre’ rots: latest indication:10,000 Britons signed up to one of the world’s largest paedophile internet networks
- and others are debt-ridden due to the daily onslaught of consumerist advertising,
- sedated by inane, often BBC-provided TV quiz shows
- or led astray by a violent TV/online diet.
Tom Young says May’s ‘Strong and Stable Government’: (is) More Than a Tagline – indeed it is and a Conservative stabilisation unit would, in future, see an increasingly heavy workload.
New claimants with a disability have just been hit by a £30 a week cut in benefits to save the government £1bn over four years even though their living costs are higher because of the need for assisted travel, hospital appointments, extra heating, etc., and they are likely to take far longer to find a job.
A friend who intends to vote Labour writes of his issue with the Labour message: “it remains too rooted in struggle and injustice, and not enough in giving people a reason to vote if they don’t suffer or struggle”.
But many well-placed voters are deeply concerned when seeing others in difficulties. And a far larger swathe of the population is struggling than he seems to think:
- graduates in formerly secure jobs are being made redundant,
- people in their twenties and twenties now see no option but to live with their parents,
- many people are suffering from urban air pollution and miserable traffic congestion,
- education cuts will affect their children as the Public Accounts Committee has warned,
- in some areas people in need of healthcare are affected by a declining NHS service.
- mental illness, no doubt in part due to one of more of these factors, is rising rapidly in both children and adults.
Professor Prem Sikka sees the positive, constructive Labour message; U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn plans:
- to raise corporation tax by more than a third over the next three years and plough the £6bn proceeds into schools and universities,
- restore maintenance grants for the poorest students,
- abolish university tuition fees
- guarantee that five, six and seven-year olds will not be taught in classes of more than 30.
- creating a National Education Service to equip Britain’s workers for the post-Brexit economy,
- extend free adult education to allow workers to upgrade their skills,
- raise the cap on NHS wages, and
- to build up to a million new homes, many of them council houses.
If ‘the sums don’t add up’, a standard Conservative knee-jerk reaction:
Withdraw subsidies from fossil fuel & nuclear companies and arms exporters, jettison HS2 and redirect investment to improving rail and waterway transport links.
Sikka rightly ends: People are our biggest asset and only they can build a nation. We have a choice: Tax cuts for the rich or investment in our future to enable people to realise their potential.
Does Theresa May have the temperament and inter-personal skills to lead successful Brexit negotiations asks Steve Beauchampé?
Extracts from his blog, “ General Election 2017 – May Plays Her Trump Card”
We don’t have to look far for reasons to believe that the Prime Minister might be a potentially toxic mixture of intensely controlling, highly secretive, overly sensitive and with a touch of the feudal monarch about her. There’s her unwillingness to campaign using little apart from slogans, to debate live with rival party leaders, to encounter voters other than pre-vetted Conservative Party members or to place herself in anything less than totally managed and protected situations. There is surely more to all this than a natural awkwardness or introspection, of being uncomfortable around people; it is about avoiding scrutiny and challenge, it indicates a lack of self-confidence, an inability to think on your feet. And it might also display a degree of paranoia.
. . . there was no Conservative Party leadership contest, merely a coronation, with May anointed before most party members even had the opportunity to hear or scrutinise her policy platform or personal suitability for the post, let alone approve it. Rivals quickly fell by the wayside, with the mildly stubborn Andrea Leadsom’s bid terminated after she was allegedly goaded by the Tory hierarchy into making an unwarranted personal remark about May.
A bellicose and bunker-like attitude towards the most important negotiations this country has faced in decades
Theresa May’s most memorable contributions to the remainder of 2016 were her revelations to October’s Conservative Party annual conference that the UK would leave both the Single Market and Customs Union as well as end the free movement of workers, with the formal process of departing the EU commencing by the end of March 2017. None of this had been agreed beforehand by the Cabinet.
When the High Court ruled that Parliament, and not the Prime Minister, had the authority to determine when Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which commences our exiting the EU, could be invoked, May was furious, ordering a government challenge in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, she permitted Justice Secretary Liz Truss to rail against the judges and failed to intervene to de-escalate tensions both when a Daily Mail front page headline called those judges ‘Enemies of the People’ and when a tirade of online abuse was directed against Gina Miller, who had brought the case.
After government defeat in the Supreme Court, May watched the subsequent House of Lords debate on the Article 50 Bill, staring at Peers from the steps of the royal throne . . .
Having stolen UKIP’s mantle (move much further to the right and the BNP might start to get nervous) Theresa May now seems to be taking cues from US President Donald Trump. Yes there were some leaks against her from EU officials, but then Whitehall also regularly leaks to its political advantage. But Theresa May’s speech outside No. 10 last week was designed to create the illusion of shady foreigners out to get Britain, before claiming that only she can save the country from them. Works every time!
May’s rage against the Brussels machine came only a day after she had revelled in claiming that the next person to find out that she was “a bloody difficult woman” would be European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Although I suspect that she’ll quickly find out that the other 27 EU heads of state and their negotiators can be even more ‘bloody difficult’ should Britain’s attitude be to go looking for a punch up. And if she continues on a confrontational course, Theresa May might now learn that the election of the strongly pro-EU Emmanuel Macron as French President will make her already difficult task just that little bit tougher. . .
Little wonder that many in Brussels are becoming tired with Britain, with its accusations and insults and with our Prime Minister’s testy approach when goodwill, reciprocity and a modicum of inter-personal skills might bring far greater rewards.
Such a bellicose and bunker-like attitude towards the most important negotiations this country has faced in decades, if not centuries, might well bring Theresa May a substantial General Election victory. Yet the country that she is creating has deepening political fissures, geographically and generationally, that both the forthcoming election and the Prime Minister’s anti-consensual and seemingly joyless leadership style appear to be exacerbating. It is a deeply unedifying spectacle. Given all of the above, do I really want to give Theresa May a mandate to negotiate my country’s future?
May 8th 2017