By Matthew Jamison | Strategic Culture
It has only been five months since Theresa May failed to secured her own mandate and term in office as Prime Minister with the start of her own Government in June 2017 [instead of a continuation of a revamped second Cameron Ministry she inherited in July 2016 with a working Tory majority of 13 in the House of Commons] devoid of a working majority in the House of Commons. Since then Mrs. May has managed to cling on to power with the help of the 10 MPs of the Democratic Unionist Party in what constitutionally is known as a Conservative minority Government kept in power by a confidence and supply arrangement with another party in the House of Commons.
The official reason given by May for calling an unnecessary and legally unscheduled General Election was to ensure ‘Strong and Stable’ Government going into the Brexit negotiations. Having run the most shambolic General Election campaign in recent British political history throwing away a 20 plus per cent lead in the opinion polls and squandering a majority in the House of Commons secured only two years ago in normal political times May would have had to go immediately. However due to the UK referendum campaign of the first half of 2016 to decide the country’s continued membership of the European Union and then the ensuing chaos of the fall out from the result of the victory of the Leave campaign these are not normal times in British modern political history along with the negotiations between the UK Government and the EU regarding the UK exit from the EU by the Spring of 2019.
Far from delivering on her central campaign pledge to deliver Strong and Stable Government, Mrs May is now heading one of the most weak, accident prone, undisciplined, unstable Governments in many decades, certainly even more dysfunctional and weak than the Major administration of 1992-1997 and the Brown Ministry of 2007-2010. Theresa May’s political authority and strength has been shredded since June 2017 when the result came through from her decision to hold the snap General Election and her control over her own party and government particularly her Cabinet has collapsed faster [as has her personal and professional stature] than the Major Government which is always held up by hard line right wing Brexiteer anti-Europeans as an unmitigated disaster following the fall of the Thatcher Premiership in the winter of 1990.
It as actually always been unfair by extreme Tory europhobes to label John Major’s Government of the early to mid 1990s a complete Conservative catastrophe. To be fair Major did actually win a General Election under very difficult circumstances and with a majority of 22 for a party which had been in power for 13 years after 3 terms. He also successfully managed to get good opt outs for the UK from further European integration under the Maastricht Treaty shielding the UK from participating in the Euro and getting the Treaty passed by the House of Commons while under fire from rebels in his own party. Major also started the Northern Ireland peace process and passed on a very healthy economy to Tony Blair’s Labour Government in 1997 thanks to his wily pro-European One Nation Chancellor of the Exchequer Ken Clarke with falling inflation, falling unemployment and steady growth after the straight jacket of the ERM and Norman Lamont were both junked.
The May record is actually completely unworthy of even being compared to the record achieved by Sir John Major as Prime Minister from 1990-1997. After becoming Prime Minister in July 2016 and giving a speech promising to be a more inclusive, solid, grounded Conservative Government tackling the socio-economic challenges of working class and middle class voters beyond the Metropolitan boroughs of London ]which were the clear drivers of the Brexit Leave vote especially in the North of the country] rather than delivering on the outcome of the closely fought referendum and bringing the two halves of the UK EU argument together for a sensible bipartisan deal while pressing ahead with a moderate and alleviating reform agenda Mrs May allowed cynical personal political greed to overtake any desire to do good for the national interest after the bitter trauma and outcome of the EU referendum. Having been lulled into a false sense of invincibility by fragile and fickle astronomical double digit leads for her Tory Party leadership against Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and having committed a massive u turn by holding a snap election and then running a terrible awful campaign which saw her party lose its governing majority but cling to power as a minority administration in alliance with a DUP confidence and supply arrangement.
Since the calamitous outcome of the snap surprise 2017 General Election the May minority Tory Government has been a complete shambles and one of the weakest British Governments headed by one of the weakest Conservative British Prime Ministers in many years. After losing the Tory Party majority having only won it less than two years ago Mrs May has had no political authority over her Cabinet whatsoever. She cannot have the Government she wants and the Cabinet has gone AWOL and freelance as evident with former International Development Secretary Priti Patel having many unofficial meetings in Israel without the Prime Minister’s knowledge. Mrs May has also clearly no authority or control over her Foreign Secretary and has just lost her loyal Defence Secretary Michael Fallon with a Westminster sex scandal having erupted and engulfed the British political elite.
May’s domestic agenda is going nowhere as everything in the UK now revolves around its departure from the EU. Her party conference speech was a disaster which she seemed ill prepared and she was not even fit enough to deliver and projected anything but an image of a strong and stable leader and government. The Queen’s Speech which laid out the May Government’s legislative programme for reform was threadbare and the economy has been left to nosedive under the combined weight of Brexit uncertainty, mounting exchange rate pressures and woeful British productivity. The future decade with the complexity and severity of the economic and social challenges facing Britain and the overwhelming political, diplomatic and governmental task of delivering Britain’s exit from the EU does not look promising for the standard of living and quality of life in Britain. The May Government will be seen as hopelessly out of its depth when confronting and grappling with these massive problems and the Prime Minister herself will be rightly judged as historians for being one of the weakest most unimpressive of British leaders for many decades leading an out of control amateurish administration beset by crisis after crisis with no strength of purpose and direction.