After over one hundred days of her tenure as Prime Minister, and following some rather damning leaks of her talks concerning Brexit, it is necessary to assess Theresa May’s performance so far. Unelected and, in some cases, unwanted, May has had to tread carefully with the British public thus far, watering down many of her views regarding issues such as leaving the European Convention on Human Rights. Her situation is volatile – she holds her position with no mandate, leading a party that was utterly divided no more than four months ago. Nonetheless, we must hold her accountable for the many questionable actions she has taken thus far.
Unelected and, in some cases, unwanted, May has had to tread carefully with the British public.
One of May’s very first actions gained global scrutiny; she appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. A decision akin to appointing a toddler as chancellor, she was internationally questioned and laughed at. A man who has been repeatedly reprimanded for his inappropriate choice of language when dealing with foreign diplomats, he was far from the natural choice for Foreign Secretary. While it may too soon to class this as a mistake, few are optimistic about his chances. It is, then, fortunate that his role has been somewhat reduced by the creation of a Ministry for Brexit.
If you recall May’s stance during the campaign for the Brexit referendum then I would be rather impressed. She made little effort throughout, clearly a ploy to remain neutral and emerge in a position of power post-referendum. Since she assumed the role of Prime Minister, she has been nothing but optimistic about Britain’s chances outside of the EU. Asserting that Britain will prioritise control of its borders over remaining in the single market, May made many who voted leave rejoice, and the rest of us weep. This arrogant over-nationalism that plagued Britain for decades is the cause of leave’s victory, and fuels the over-optimistic idea that our economy will survive outside of the single market. It seems that May embodies this same arrogance. This decision has been another catastrophic mistake, having already plummeted the pound down to a new depth, and causing major corporations to become uneasy with Britain’s economic position. Yet May’s optimism continues.
Her undying optimism was not always present as we have recently learned. Tapes of talks she gave to employees of one of London’s leading banks, Goldman Sachs were leaked only a few days ago, and paint a completely different picture of May’s opinions about Brexit. In the talk, she expresses concern for both Britain’s economy and safety if we leave the European Union. Expressing her views much more strongly than she did to the public, May voiced fears that British companies would seek to relocate to the EU. Then why is May optimistic about Britain’s chances now? Has she somehow found reassurance in the crash of the pound? No, she is no more optimistic now than she was in her talks to Goldman Sachs, but she has to appear so. Both for the benefit of Britain’s economy, to give investors and businesses confidence in the UK, and to further her own career: May must be seen to appeal to those who voted leave.
The most recent mistake on May’s part comes in regards to Russia. For years, Russia has used Spanish ports, both in Europe and Africa, to refuel her battleships. While this was not a problem while Russia was dormant, a sleeping bear, times have changed. Russia’s involvement in Syria, namely in aiding Assad’s regime in its fights against the rebels, is more apparent than ever. This aid can involve copious amounts of bombing raids by Russian aircraft. Russia recently requested that Spain allow her to refuel several naval vessels carrying aircraft at one of their ports. Spain agreed, and was met with instant backlash from the European community; Russia obviously intends to use these aircraft in their bombing raids in Syria, which results in murdering of thousands of civilians.
European leaders were in uproar, except ours. May refused to condemn Spain for their actions, saying that Russian vessels could ‘go where they please’, a dangerous statement to be making in the current climate of Russian aggression. Michael Fallon, defence secretary, has since condemned Spain for their actions, showing a divide in May’s cabinet, and a non-committal attitude from herself regarding foreign policy. Russia has recently mounted the largest number of troops on its border with Europe since the cold war, and yet May sees it as appropriate to offer Putin a free pass concerning his naval vessels. May’s judgement has to be brought into question when she is making decisions such as these.
So with mistake after mistake already under her belt, why is she still in the job? The answer is simple; she is an excellent politician. As slimy as a garden slug, she makes David Cameron seem as honest as Mother Theresa. May cannot help but to dodge questions and bend the truth to suit her needs. Reality is redefined at the whim of Theresa May, or so she would have you believe. Increasingly, Jeremy Corbyn is making light work of their exchanges at the dispatch box during Wednesdays’ Prime Minister’s Questions. May has run out of script, citing her regular lines such as ‘Brexit means Brexit’ has served her well so far, but will do so no longer. Her façade has begun to crack and Corbyn will waste no time exposing these imperfections.
When May enacts article 50, she is effectively handing in her resignation with two years notice.
The concern, then, is that if Corbyn manages to take advantages of May’s shortfalls, so too will Europe’s finest. The Brexit negotiations, if they occur to the same standard as May’s previous acts, could potentially land Britain with slightly greater control of her borders, but a stunted economy. We have much to look forward between now and the next general election, if May can even last that long. It is unlikely she will last past the end of Brexit negotiations; so many people want so many different things that she will find it virtually impossible to make everyone happy, even within her own party, and so there is a great chance of a leadership coup, but a greater chance of an orchestrated resignation. When May enacts article 50, she is effectively handing in her resignation with two years notice.