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Less than two months have flown since Theresa May gave her one and only reason for calling a snap election. Yet that one and only reason seems to have slipped from the minds of our leading newshounds. Let me remind them. The Daily Express had May employing the majestic plural – Maggie style: “It would strengthen our hand if we had a very clear mandate from people.” In a no-nonsense, business-like manner a Financial Times headline read: “Theresa May calls snap election in bid to strengthen hand in Brexit talks”. Following the French election, and in full ‘Carry on Matron’ mode, the Independent innuendo team came up with: “Theresa May says she needs a mandate as big as Macron’s to negotiate Brexit properly”. Ooh, err, Missus! While in an exclusive ‘chat’ with Rupert Murdoch’s Sun Theresa confided that one of her long rambles in Snowdonia with Philip “… started me thinking about the necessity of strengthening our hand in our negotiations.”
In hindsight, it was a rather reckless move to throw her hat into the ring at that particular juncture. It was so needless. Not only did the Tory Party have a workable enough majority in parliament but May herself was surfing on the crest of a tsunami of popular support. Implying the sole intention of calling an election was, not just to increase her majority, but by a considerable amount, she set the bar too high. Calling one on her stated premise would mean that no increase in the number of Tory seats would amount to failure. Even a small increase wouldn’t be enough. Staking all on the idea anything less than a landslide wouldn’t do was a foolish gamble she would soon come to regret.
“I think he (Jeremy Corbyn) ought to be paying a little more attention to thinking about Brexit negotiations”
Assuming she could dictate the field on which the battle would be fought turned out not to be the brightest idea either. May chose the Brexit negotiations as her ace card. Laying all her bets on the presumption winning would be the foregone conclusion the polls, and pundits in the corporate media, were predicting, she didn’t bother with a proper election strategy. Counting on a string of tired platitudes and meaningless slogans to do the job, she set about planning Britain’s exit from Europe, while leaving others to tread an election trail that hardly seemed worth all the bother. But there were those who saw it might be worth all the bother. A general election seemed just what Jeremy Corbyn and the left wing of the Labour Party had been waiting for. Corbyn and his lively team took to the task at hand with unexpected gusto and were off the blocks like lightning.
The way things are now panning out, Theresa May may not end up representing Britain in the Brexit negotiations, even if she does scrape by with a reduced majority. With a hung parliament in the offing, Corbyn’s call for her resignation are already being echoed by discontented murmurings within her own ranks.
The impression May has conveyed is of an ambitous and over-confident obsessive with a misguided belief in her own destiny. As the election campaign progressed, it became increasingly clear her call for an election was directed as much at European leaders as at the British electorate. She was rattling a sabre across the Channel in the firm belief voters in Britain would rally behind the flag to see Europe cower before them. She seemed to completely ignore the fact that European leaders had already shown their displeasure at her confrontational style. The new Boudica of British politics appears to have forgotten the Queen of the Iceni lost to the Romans.
To set the bar even higher, May challenged the electorate by announcing she would require “a mandate as big as Macron’s to negotiate Brexit properly”. In that, she failed to take into account that Macron would be one of the European leaders the UK’s next prime minister will have to deal with. But it gets worse when it is understood that Macron’s mandate came from a majority of French voters expressing their desire to stay in Europe. With that in mind it is highly unlikely the French leader will make things easy for someone who has been behaving like a stroppy Thatcher clone. To do so would only invite other disenchanted Eurosceptics to follow a similar path. For the record, Macron took 66.1% of the vote. By implying anything less than 66.1% will leave her with a mandate too small “to negotiate Brexit properly” she has not only succeeded in weakening her hand, but in tying both hands behind her back, as well the hands of any other unfortunate UK leader charged with the task of dealing with the exit.
Setting herself what has turned out to be a wildly unrealistic target reveals May to be prone to bad and impulsive judgement. By failing to take into account that anything less than achieving her own stated objective would, not only not strengthen her hand, but would weaken it in the eyes of the very European leaders that will be sitting on the other side of the negotiating table, she has made it even more difficult for the poor sod left holding the can in Downing Street. As she herself has emphasised, talks are due to take place “only eleven days after the election”. That leaves very little time for any changes to be made to the feeling of weakness and vacillation she has created.
With the possibility of a hung parliament looming, there might even be yet another election adding to a growing impression of instability in the nation abroad.
In one rash move, May has displayed a completely unwarranted sense of self-confidence, bolstered by a corporate media that is more in the business of self-fulfilling prophecy than reporting the news. A Tory government and a Tory press convinced themselves they had it in the bag. With the media moguls on her side she couldn’t lose. Corbyn was a dead duck, they kept telling each other, despite the fact they’d said it twice before, and Corbyn had won twice before. Her ‘all or nothing/no deal is better than a bad deal’ rhetoric was an insult to the intelligence of the voters. Blinded by personal ambition Theresa May has gambled the nation’s future on what turns out to be a busted flush. She doesn’t deserve anybody’s vote.
Une fois. Encore.
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