“In the Name of God, Go!” Theresa May Must Resign Now
Theresa May’s fortune changed as “Big Ben” struck its first chime at 10 o'clock on Thursday 8th June and David Dimbleby declared that the Conservatives would be the largest party in the next parliament - the largest party but without a majority.
It was then that the myth of “Strong and Stable” finally crumbled.
In twelve months of Theresa May’s premiership, we have witnessed a marriage and extraordinary honeymoon. The campaign saw the honeymoon’s end and a polling day divorce. Reconciliation is unlikely: the British are papal in regards to political marriage. Recrimination is far more likely.
Had May won a healthy majority, commentators would be praising her wisdom; she would be a Conservative heroine. It is perhaps unfair to vilify her. The reality of politics is, however, that its practitioners live and die by the swords they wield.
And so it goes with May.
Since she became prime minister, May has fought a lengthy and costly court battle to deny Parliament a say on the triggering of Article 50; she avoided debate about her EU policy by hiding behind the intimidation of the Brexit press; then, although she had railroaded MPs into passing her Article 50 bill - without amendment - she called a general election because she wanted to crush the remaining opposition.
She has made no concession to the referendum’s losing side, claiming the 52% as a shield to pursue a policy of leaving the Single Market and Customs Union to achieve an extreme Brexit. She claimed that the country was uniting. Her election gamble has proved the opposite.
May has lost her party its Commons majority while Labour has seen massive gains in terms of votes and seats. Jeremy Corbyn has claimed a moral mandate to form a minority administration, supported by the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists.
May is no longer leader but captive
In May’s seeming determination to carry on - judging by her speech outside Downing Street, as if nothing has change - there is nothing unconstitutional: she leads the largest party. If one discounts Sinn Fein, who will not take up their seats, she is shy of a majority by three seats.
In order to cling to office, she has shed her closest advisers and supposedly shelved a plan for a wide-ranging Cabinet reshuffle. May is no longer leader but captive. Yet she expects to be the face and voice of the most important negotiations Britain will conduct in half a century. It is, frankly, not credible.
May has a right to put before the Commons a Queen’s Speech. Her government would depend on the success or failure of that programme. An option would be to pause the negotiation process and seek to find a consensus on Brexit.
Instead, the Prime Minister has chosen to ally herself with the Democratic Unionist Party to secure a small Commons majority. There may not be a parallel between this and Corbyn’s dealing with Sinn Fein-IRA during their bombing campaign, but it smells wrong. She has partnered her party with the extreme misogynistic and homophobic right. She risks internal revolt by doing so. Already Ruth Davidson has talked about a more open Brexit policy that puts the economy first. With three more MPs than the DUP, Scottish MPs have more sway.
Most importantly, she has destroyed in a handshake the Westminster government’s role as an honest broker in Belfast where parties are failing to reach agreement in Stormont talks. In the context of Brexit, she is further risking the security and stability of the United Kingdom for political, and personal, gain.
Her fall has been brutal. The danger is that she takes the country down with her
The Prime Minister may think about limping on, a prisoner of her party and her new allies, forever haunted by rumours of a leadership challenge, but she certainly will not be able to call another election. Nor is there a unifying figure to replace her. The obvious choice, Boris Johnson, is scarred by his NHS deceit.
The Fixed-term Parliament Act, which the Conservatives have no mandate to withdraw, means that a no confidence vote does not entail an automatic general election: Jeremy Corbyn’s party could simply take over as a minority. He could then dare Parliament to vote no confidence or simply call for an election as May herself did.
That a grand coaliton, perhaps the responsible option, remains a fringe subject demonstrates the difference between British and European politics. The narrative of betrayal ever lurks. Moreover there is no obvious figure who could - or would be willing - to lead such a movement. Labour has united since polling day: Corbyn’s position is unassailable - and many of his MPs owe their seats to him. Having come so unexpectedly far, Labour may feel it better to watch the Tories implode.
If May was content to take credit for the relative post-referendum stability, she must also shoulder the responsibility for the inevitable instability her general election has brought.
Her fall has been brutal. The danger is that she takes the country down with her. It was another failed Conservative leader Neville Chamberlain who, during the Norway debate in May 1940, sat in the Commons to hear Leo Amery quote Oliver Cromwell as he demanded his resignation.
Like Chamberlain, May - and maybe her party - has forfeited the moral legitimacy any government needs.
Duty and honour dictates that May does the same as Chamberlain. If the Conservatives cannot quickly find a replacement who can reject the hubris of the past year and work with other parties to heal the nation’s divisions, they must go too.
As it is, Jeremy Corbyn would be justified in repeating that form of words, used to him by David Cameron, against his successor: “In the name of God, go!”
About the author
Disclaimer is a group of writers, journalists, and artists who have been brought together by their desire to tackle serious issues with a light and humorous touch. A mixture of idealists and pragmatists, Disclaimer is socially very liberal, economically less so. The editorial stance is formed collectively, based on the shared values of the magazine. Gonzalo Viña founded Disclaimer with the help of Phil Thornton who oversees the economics coverage. Graham Kirby is the editor.
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