There is an ongoing bash of the current British Prime Minister, Theresa May, over her decision to call for a snap election. The conservatives not only did not secure a landslide victory, it lost its majority. A series of events happened since May took over, leading to the chaos that we have today on the political landscape in Britain. Theresa may (pun intended) not be a spectacular Prime Minister, but a deeper understanding of her difficult situation can help us to empathize better. Empathy is especially lacking in this case because the constant bashing of May by the politicians and the media seems to be diluting the fact that she is, after all, a human. At the very least, she can be said to be more human than Donald Trump.
Before Theresa May became the Prime Minister, the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, resigned over the results of the Brexit Referendum. An in-party election was carried out and May was chosen to take over the steering wheel of the country.
Thrust with an utterly complex task of decoupling the UK economy from the EU, Theresa May already has a huge burden to bear. It does not help that the country was split on a rather thin margin of about 4% on Brexit. Considering that there were many from the Remain camp who did not vote (especially the youths, who will come back to bite her again), the country was almost evenly divided on this issue. A referendum won on a small margin gave May a weak mandate to carry out Brexit. This is why the triggering of Article 50, an article that gave May the legal authority to start Brexit negotiation, was met with considerable resistance in the British Parliament (Smith and Hughes, 2016).
Perhaps it was due to an experience of passing a difficult bill to trigger Article 50 that made May foresee a difficult problem ahead. A weak mandate already made it difficult to start Brexit negotiation, just imagine the road ahead when the details of the negotiations are being worked out. Besides, the negotiation has a deadline, and so May had an idea: to call for a snap election, improve the strength of her mandate, and make Brexit happen on time. The decision was, initially, praised by many as an ingenious decision. Some say it was shrewd (This is a praise from a political standpoint), some even say it was “politically astute” (Dobson-Hughes, 2017). The public opinion, of course, U-turned during the course of the election campaign.
The U-turn of public opinion began initially with a relatively un-impactful Westminster Attack. The trigger that really got the momentum going was the Manchester Attack, followed by the London Bridge Attack. The series of terrorist attacks in a short span of less than 3 months was by no means coincidental. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, How to Defeat Terrorism, this is a political ploy by the terrorists to further upset the political situation in UK. Nonetheless, the attacks set the stage for an unrelenting wave of political bashing.
Led by the Labor’s leader, James Corbyn, a series of accusations turned public opinion against May. The first issue has to do with May’s cuts of the police and intelligence services’ budget when she was previously Home Secretary (Mason and Walker, 2017). This issue was used to blame May for the terrorist attacks, which was effective in shifting public opinion as the terrorist attacks are deeply emotional incidents for the British. Following which, an unpopular party manifesto – which many touted as a key reason that May lost – merely rode on the ongoing wave of political bashing.
I’m sure you’ve heard because it’s recent and a pretty big piece of news: the Conservative lost its majority, resulting in a hung parliament. And now, May is struggling to strike a deal with the ultra-conservative Northern Ireland party of DUP to secure a marginal majority. While this is happening, many are criticizing the decision May made when she called for a snap election. This is a perfect example of either scapegoating or hindsight bias. Yes, the manifesto was unpopular but no one could have foreseen a series of terrorist attacks or the youths’ “payback votes” (The Straits Time, 2017).
As of now, the criticism of that decision is the form that the current political bashing takes. I’m sure it will continue to take other forms until the Brexit negotiations conclude in some ways, or if May resigns. If it were me? Hell yeah, I quit!
I will quit because the British can’t make up their minds collectively, my party members are irritating the hell out of me, the opposition is eager to replace me, and the other EU countries are really hell-bent on making Brexit a hard pill for my countrymen to swallow (in which they will blame me for not doing a good job). There’s a lot of “hell” going for May here because May’s situation is really one hell of a situation.
I’m not saying that those groups of people whom I’ve mentioned are all at fault – the British people cannot make collective decisions because votes are based on individual choices, the other EU members must make an example out of UK to preserve the EU and leaders like Macron practically based his electoral mandate on the preservation of EU. However, there are those – such as the opposition and the Conservatives who are pointing fingers at May – who should be in the negative spotlight. The opposition played into the terrorist ploy to destabilize UK and the conservatives pointing fingers at May are cowardly scapegoating May and falling into the trap of Hindsight Bias – as if they can do a better job.
Written by: Jackson
Dobson-Hughes, L. (2017). Theresa Mayâ€™s shrewd election bid. [online] Policy Options. Available at: http://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/april-2017/theresa-mays-shrewd-election-bid/ [Accessed 14 Jun. 2017].
Mason, R. and Walker, P. (2017). Under-fire Theresa May hits back over police cuts. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/05/karen-bradley-police-cuts-armed-officers-bbc-today-programme-london-bridge-attack [Accessed 14 Jun. 2017].
Smith, M. and Hughes, D. (2016). Theresa May faces Brexit resistance as MPs threaten to vote against Article 50. [online] mirror. Available at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/theresa-faces-brexit-resistance-mps-9238315 [Accessed 14 Jun. 2017].
The Straits Times. (2017). Surprise turnout of youth hits Tories in ‘payback’ vote. [online] Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/world/europe/surprise-turnout-of-youth-hits-tories-in-payback-vote [Accessed 14 Jun. 2017].
Brexit Referendum Result: https://thepoliticalidealist.wordpress.com/tag/brexit/
Theresa May calls for snap election: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/british-prime-minister-theresa-may-calls-snap-election-n747681
London Bridge Attack: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/22/world/europe/london-attack-what-we-know.html
Keep Calm Poster: https://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-kill-me-please-30/