Cultural experiences and funny musings by two twenty-somethings living abroad
I went through a number of emotions over the course of Thursday night – as the results of the British General Election were coming in.
I was enjoying a nice wheat beer with a few neighbours at the local beer garden here in my second home of Munich when news of the exit poll came through on my phone, showing that Theresa May was on course to lose her parliamentary majority. Almost exactly a year after feeling the devastation of Britain voting to leave the European Union, I was jumping for joy knowing that Theresa May was not going to get the blank cheque she was asking for and railroad whatever form of Brexit she wanted or was able to get. The predicted landslide did not transpire and the lady who over the course of the election proved that she is one for turning was not going to get the result she wanted, but the one she deserved. However over the course of the night, that joy turned to concern in that if the exit poll was correct, the mathematics and the balance of power between parties in Parliament would mean that the so-called “progressive alliance” would not be able to command a majority either. Then, when day broke, as it became increasingly clear Theresa May was going to try and cling onto power by forming some form of partnership with the DUP, that concern turned to discontent. And then, when Theresa May returned to Downing Street after meeting with the Queen to announce that she was going to form a government anyway, that discontent turned to anger.
Because once again, the casino that is the Conservative Party has gambled with the well-being of the country for the sake of unifying the party, and has lost yet again. The Conservative Party gambled on increasing the size of their parliamentary majority but we now have a parliament that is inherently unstable – the Conservatives may have emerged as the largest party, but the fact they lost rather than gained seats has a destabilising effect on the party and the prospect of a deal with Northern Ireland’s DUP sits uncomfortably with certain sections of the party. Combine that with the fact that the parties of the so-called “progressive alliance” are not numerically large enough to form some sort of alternative coalition and yet don’t want anything to do with May, May doesn’t have any other natural allies left in parliament. If only we were Germany, where the main centre-right and centre-left party could put aside tribal differences and work together in the national interest, but in Britain, we have found ourselves with a parliament where the key players are either unwilling or unable to co-operate with one another to form a functioning majority and divisions within a Conservative minority government is going to create a situation which is fundamentally unstable.
And that is why, before the end of the year, there will be another General Election
In the few months alone where she has been Prime Minister, Theresa May has behaved utterly irresponsibly and the sound-bites she made throughout the campaign will absolutely come back to haunt her. Throughout the course of the campaign, we were constantly warned about a “coalition of chaos” if she lost just six seats. What she failed to mention is that it would actually be herself leading that coalition of chaos by seeking a partnership with the climate-change-denying, anti-LGBT, anti-abortion, creationist-believing DUP: a party that had members of the Ulster Resistance terrorist group rising to prominence among its ranks. The prospect of a partnership between the Conservatives and the DUP is all the more remarkable when you consider how much the Conservatives and the right-wing press railed against Jeremy Corbyn for his historical links with Sinn Féin and how he could not be trusted with the defence of the realm, only then for Theresa May to refer to a party that has ties to a loyalist paramilitary organisation as her “friends and allies” right in front of 10 Downing Street and saying nothing about the Tory MPs jobs she cost. The fact that Theresa May is seeking co-operation with the DUP is also incredibly troubling given that the UK Government (alongside the government of the Republic of Ireland) is supposed to be acting as an impartial broker in resolving Northern Ireland’s current political crisis – she is potentially sacrificing stability in Northern Ireland for the sake of desperately clinging onto power in Westminster and is not something that even John Major considered doing when he was in a similar situation in the 1990’s. Theresa May constantly warned us that if she lost just six seats, she would lose her majority and we would have “Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10, John McDonnell in the Treasury, Diane Abbott in the Home Office, and Nicola Sturgeon pulling the strings”. Well, she lost thirteen seats, and Theresa May is still in Number 10, Boris Johnson is still in the Foreign Office, Jeremy Hunt will probably still be in the Department of Health, but now there will also be Arlene Foster of the DUP pulling the strings.
Throughout the course of the campaign, Theresa May constantly parroted how she represents “strong and stable leadership in the national interest” and that only she and her team can be trusted to deliver the best deal for Britain during Brexit negotiations, whilst Jeremy Corbyn would find himself “alone and naked” before the Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Chancellors of the other 27 member states of the European Union. So what does our dear strong and stable leader do? She initiates the beginning of the two-year-long exit proceedings by sending that Article 50 letter; proceeds to gamble with the future of the country by needlessly calling an election, wasting seven weeks’ time of the negotiation period; loses her parliamentary majority in said election by flip-flopping through a disastrous and inept campaign, leaving her with a party that is too weak to single-handedly take control yet too strong to be ignored in a parliament made up mostly of parties that don’t really want anything to do with her; and being in a position where she isn’t realistically able to resign, she is having to conduct tough Brexit negotiations abroad and having to desperately maintain control at home with only the fading support of a minority government behind her. She has created a situation that can only last months at best and will almost certainly require us to go through yet another General Election some time very soon and maybe even a Conservative leadership challenge as well, wasting yet even more time during the Brexit negotiations and making it much more likely that we will get no deal – but in Theresa May’s world, at least that’s better than a bad deal. Never mind the poor farmers who didn’t like her running through their fields of wheat, think of the people of the entire United Kingdom that has had internal Conservative party problems projected onto them in the form of a Brexit Referendum and a General Election and left us with a political situation that is utterly “weak and wobbly, totally bereft of the national interest”.
Theresa May’s record in office, whether as Prime Minister or Home Secretary, has been utterly appalling – and she should not be allowed anywhere near the keys to 10 Downing Street again if we do find ourselves having to vote again in a few months time. Yes, there are a lot of people of various left-wing persuasions who are generally opposed to the kind of politics she represents anyway, but Theresa May and the Conservative Party should absolutely bear the scorn of conservative-minded people as well, because they have failed on their own terms and have not been acting in the interests of their voters. Whether it is the repeated failure to meet their immigration targets; or their failure to ensure our security services have the resources they need to address the security threats to this country, and at the same time entering into arms deals with those who are ideologically fuelling the kind of terrorism we are trying to deal with; or massively increasing the size of our debt so that our tax money is going towards servicing debt rather than the things we actually want to direct our money towards; or the belief that costs in dementia-healthcare can be funded by stripping patients of all but £100,000 of their assets: if you are conservative-minded and thinking of voting for them again in a few months time, do the patriotic thing and please think again.
But for now, Theresa May is our Prime Minister and the Chancellor of my host country is saying that the UK needs to stick to the Brexit negotiation schedule that had been arranged to begin on the 19th of June. That is of course assuming that the Government survives even that long and that Theresa May is able to arrive in Brussels in any other way than “alone and naked”. Perhaps it is right for Sigmar Gabriel of Germany’s Social Democrats to question whether this really is the way Britain should be leaving the European Union given the current political uncertainty in Westminster, and it would be wise for the UK not to begin the process of leaving the European Union until our house is in order because the prospect of no deal – or rather a very bad deal – has now become a very real possibility. Nigel Evans of the Conservative Party said on the BBC that his party shot themselves not in the foot but in the head – I’d go further and say that Theresa May and her crop of Conservatives have caused grievous national harm and should not be allowed anywhere near the doors to power ever again.
Written by Jasper Roskilly