This is an insightful read from Peter Apps, Reuters‘ global affairs correspondent. He argues that despite her dramatic electoral upset, British Prime Minister Theresa May appears determined to stay in office and whilst in the short term, she could yet manage it, in the longer-term consequences may well be disastrous for the UK.
The UK now has a weak and wobbly prime minister in Theresa May. Time and time again, May has proven ready to make U-turns for her own short-term political expediency. She’s constantly looking for a blank cheque, freeing her from accountability to both parliament and the people. The campaign majored on her leadership and negotiation skills. But voters, the media and Brexit negotiators have seen the true May, a weak and wobbly woman, light on convictions, poor on judgement and leadership.
Thanks to Theresa May, the 2017 general election has changed British politics.
Firstly, the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn and his Far-Left sponsors has gained serious political traction, catching the Tories on the back foot. We have seen the birth of left-wing populism in the UK – remember populists freely trade in false news and the truth is subordinated. For both the Far Left and the Far Right, the end justifies the means, including targeting minorities and turning a blind-eye to violence based on religious and moral intolerance.
Secondly, the Conservative Party narrowly chased UKIP and SNP voters at the margin, abandoning traditional supporters (many like myself turned away). Most importantly, for the young, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party appeared to offer solutions, just like the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Meanwhile, the Conservatives’ have struggled to connect with younger voters. It’s no longer enough for Conservative supporters to question the Labour Party’s economic record.
Before the election, Theresa May was struggling with many issues and increasingly pandering to the right of her party for support. Austerity plus falling real wages and salaries were deeply unpopular. Cuts to the police have left the UK weakened with rising terrorism. The economy was weakening too, with ineffective policies and the uncertainties of Brexit. Popular support for Brexit was crumbling in face of the economic hardship but the government were lurching towards a hard-Brexit crash-landing.
Now, let’s fast forward to the next general election – this is like to be a full-term as many Tories are scared of Labour winning next time with a snap election. The most likely scenario is a very costly Brexit divorce bill, and economic hardship for many on the back of fewer jobs. Suddenly, we can see that the Tories are the toxic party, not Labour. Many older voters will have died or be in care, losing their lifetime savings. Younger natural Tories will probably feel robbed out of inheritances – they’ll be scared too about their job security and fewer opportunities for their children.
Sooner or later, the Tories will realize that there are two elephants in the room. Firstly, there’s ‘toxic Theresa’ whose weak and wobbly leadership risks poisoning the Conservative brand for a generation. Secondly, there’s Brexit which is increasingly unpopular with younger voters.
To avoid disaster, the Conservatives will soon want to replace Theresa May with a more popular and charismatic leader with whom young people can identify. Secondly, there’s an opportunity for damage limitation with Brexit by calling a second referendum to ratify the Brexit terms.