Theresa May Handicapped After Failing to Secure A Decisive Mandate
Conservative Party leaders appear to be jinxed when it comes to gambling. First, British Prime Minister David Cameron lost the referendum on Brexit and now his successor Theresa May failed to win more seats than before. She lost out on securing a decisive mandate which would have strengthened her hands.
The gamble misfired and the Conservative party lost a dozen seats finishing with a tally of 318. Their rival with Jeremy Corbyn in the vanguard of the Labour party ended with 262 seats and about 40 per cent of the vote share.
It is believed May’s image as a tough leader may have contributed to her misreading the public mood. Unlike France just across the Channel which catapulted an untested En Marche to power, Britain continues to have faith in the two traditional parties vying for power securing more than 80 per cent of the votes.
Inexorably Brexit was at the centre of it all. On the other hand the Liberal Democrats demanding a new referendum, had to remain content with a conspicuously low vote count. There is no doubt that domestic factors as much as Brexit influenced the elections in Britain.
May finds herself on shaky ground having reached a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party for her government’s survival. Impartial observers insist that May will have to think afresh on Brexit and domestic policy.
In the immediate aftermath of the results, the Labour Party and in particularly Corbyn has been baying for May’s resignation. She has refused to oblige him and is determined to take the country forward. However, the challenge of providing her majority on the floor of the House of Commons remains after the Queens address at the beginning of next week on June 19.
May has the option of accepting support from the ten-member Northern Ireland Unionists which is bound to entail a price which she might not be able to reject. The Scottish National Party will seek to extract an even bigger price which is unlikely to be acceptable to the Conservatives. For the same reason, Liberal Democrats may also be unacceptable even if they offer support as they are part of the unstable arrangement.
If May fails to muster the numbers, the Queen could even invite Jeremy Corbyn to try and muster a majority. Amid all this there are the impending negotiations with the European Union for an exit that is not damaging or hurtful to Britain.
On her part May had sought during her campaigning a strong verdict in her party’s favour failing which she apprehended the Brexit outcome could be gloomy. Considering the fractured mandate that the Conservative party has got, the negotiators have an unenviable task on their hands.
At the same time there can be more upheaval with the talk of another election before the end of this year. Even as there is uncertainty about the Brexit talks beginning on schedule, the EU has warned Britain facing the risk of a “no deal” if talks are delayed. It has set a two year deadline to get over with Brexit so that it can get on with other business.
The anti-UK mood in Europe has spiralled on account of May accusing the EU leadership of conspiring against Britain. Needless to say all EU members have closed ranks.
British commentators feel while the EU is united about its negotiating strategy, May has little idea of what Britain wants, let alone how to achieve it. That is where the problem is.