Theresa May’s first 100 days as Prime Minister are now up. It is a widely accepted truism within Western politics that a strong start is essential for any leader, particularly in the case of an unelected prime minister. Compared to the initial forays of Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair, May’s start has been low-key. Yet indications of where her reign may lead are there for those who care to look.
The issue that ended her predecessor, David Cameron, and which continues to divide the nation. If there was one matter on which May needed to provide clear, strong leadership this was it. Walking the tightrope of a population split straight down the middle and a party as divided as ever represented a real test of her mettle. As home secretary, May had backed Remain. As prime minister, she fudged the issue for months, offering nothing other than the tautology that “Brexit means Brexit.” She then appointed right wingers, David Davis and Liam Fox and morphed towards a hard Brexit position. She has maintained this despite warnings of dire economic consequences and the simple fact that 48% of the country voted against it altogether. Suspicion lingers that this shift in her view is solely to appease factions within her own party and stave off a potential leadership challenge from Boris Johnson. It is otherwise unexplained.
A country that works for everyone
It’s like advertising – they always begin with a slogan, don’t they? Remember ‘new Labour, new Britian’ or ‘the big society’? May has hit us with ‘a country that works for everyone’. It sounds great, as do her claims to be on the side of ordinary, working class people, but rhetoric is empty until supported by action. Her few policy choices so far, such as Brexit, as discussed above, her UKIP influenced statements on foreign workers and her preference for the removal of restrictions on grammar school formation, do not match her pretty words. Rather than a move to or a ‘reshaping’ of the centre ground, as touted by most of the mainstream media, the only clear course May has steered has been ultra right wing, reactionary and divisive.
A new Cold War?
Geo-politics is an essential aspect of any prime minister’s job and following the horrific foreign policy crimes of Tony Blair and David Cameron, a new direction was sorely needed. Yet May baffled pretty much everyone by appointing Boris Johnson as foreign secretary. This was a man who published a poem about the Turkish prime minister buggering a goat, advocated the return of colonial powers to Africa and described US president-to-be, Hilary Clinton as like a “sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.” Was there anybody less suitable?
With the Middle East as a chessboard, the world’s powers are playing out their game for domination and Johnson has been delivering increasingly hostile messages towards Russia. Rather than reining him in, May has stepped up the process. The near past has repeatedly shown how following the US lead and pursuing oil concerns above all else leads into dark and dangerous areas. Yet May seems oblivious to such lessons. Relations with Russia are at their lowest point since the 1980s, with many describing the onset of a new cold war.
Change, not more of the same
The mainstream media might tell you otherwise, but the UK needs a fresh approach, rather than repetition of decades of mistakes. May has done nothing in her first 100 days to demonstrate an ability to deliver that. The early signs should concern us all.
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Featured image via screengrab