THE CHURCHILL-LORD HALIFAX MOMENT OF HISTORY: MAY GOVERNMENT IN ...June 11, 2017
Last week's general election in the U.K. didn't quite go the way Prime Minister Theresa May and her Tory party had hoped, with Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party picking up seats, leaving the Tories with a thin majority in Parliament, and having to retain power by climbing into bed with the Northern Irish DUP party, which, I am informed, is a "hard right" party because it's against gay marriage. But hey, bringing in boatloads of barbarians who like to execute gay people from the region of the world dominated by the Religion of Peace Love and Tolerance is ok. It's things like this that are the source of my confusions. The results intrigue me, because during last Friday's members' vidchat, some of our U.K. members were trying to make sense of the results for me, and of course, I ended up being more confused than before. My first suggestion to my British friends: write your constitution down somewhere. That way, you can keep track of how much of it you're ignoring. It works for us. As it is, it takes a barrister from the Inner Temple to figure it out, and even they have difficulty.
So back to the British elections and my confusion. One individual of my website informed me during the vidchat that many of the pro-Brexit voters turned to Labour in this general election, and away from the Tories. This makes a little sense to me (and only a little), because the whole Brexit thing was what brought down Mr. Cameron and installed Ms. May. But my impression was that the pro-Brexit voters pretty much spanned both large political parties in Great Britain, so I am even more confused as to why the Tories would have assumed that the Brexit-UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) voters would automatically in the Tory party pocket.
My attempts to get any sense from my U.K. members what the main issues (for them, or as they saw them) were, was pretty much a failure. So in lieu of having any solid idea on what just happened, and why, I went hunting through my email folder and found this article from the Globe and Mail shared by Mr. T.M., and I suppose it does just about as good a job as any in explaining things from the point of view of the British electorate:
There's a few weird things in this article, that make me wonder even more what's going on. One thing it points out is that Britons were mainly concerned with domestic issues, and the less-than-stellar performance of the May government in dealing with them. For example:
However, the election campaign quickly turned against Ms. May. The public didn’t focus on Brexit as much as she’d hoped and instead concentrated on domestic issues such as health care, education and taxation. Ms. May, 60, fumbled the announcement of a key social policy measure for older people, upsetting seniors and forcing her to make a hasty backtrack. She also ran into trouble over her plans to cut immigration, causing confusion with an unclear timetable. And she turned off some voters by refusing to debate Mr. Corbyn and by appearing robotic in a couple of televised town-hall-style sessions.
Terrorist attacks in Manchester and London also exposed her legacy of cutting 20,000 police officers during her six years as interior minister. Mr. Corbyn pounced on the police cuts and many rank and file officers complained about the lack of resources just as the country faced its biggest terrorist threat since the Irish Republican Army in the 1970s.
This of course reassured me, in that I was wondering if the terrorist attacks figured in the voting results at all. Some people I talked to said yes; others no. But there's a quasi-constitutional issue looming, not the least of which is because Ms. May now has a much weaker government - indeed one might argue, an unstable one - with which to negotiate with the European (dis)Union of its Brexit policy. Mr. Corbyn, the Labour leader captures this problem succinctly:
But there were already growing calls for her to resign.
“She wanted a mandate. Well, the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go,” Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said.
Labour Finance Critic John McDonnell said the party was ready to try to form a minority government. “If we can form a minority government, I think we can have a stable government,” he said Friday. “We would be able to produce a Queen’s speech and budget based upon our manifesto, which I think could command majority support in Parliament, not through deals or coalitions but policy by policy.”
So why hasn't she gone? Whatever one makes of British politics (and it's always hazardous to guess), I just get the feeling that there is a lot more behind this one paragraph than the standard, traditional, "visit-of-the-winning-party-leadership-to-see-the-Queen":
“I have just been to see Her Majesty the Queen, and I will now form a government – a government that can provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country,” Ms. May said after her Conservatives failed to cling to a majority.
I don't know about you, but I just cannot help feel a slight tingle of deja vu here, and feel that we're looking at another Royal Palace-Churchill-Lord Halifax moment of history. There across the channel is the German colossus, astride Western Europe, making demands and extending olive branches and hoping Halifax wins the Royal lottery and forms a government (after all, he's the Palace favorite, and the Palace is, after all, occupied by a bunch of Germans, though over the last 150 years, almost all traces of the German accent have disappeared. The de-Nazification program(me) apparently has not been 100% successful, because some of them want to become viruses to wipe out whole swaths of the human population.). And then of course there's the radical Liberal-today-Tory-tomorrow Churchill. Churchill, as we know, won the Royal favo(u)r and the then-existing version of "hard Brexit" won out, though there were times that the Churchill government's grasp on power, behind the scenes, was not as secure as it was maintaining in public, as Britain was unceremoniously ejected from Greece, and a fellow by the name of Rommel began to cause more than a few headaches in Africa. Churchill was banking on America, not a German-led Europe, and again, the deja vu is too weird not to notice, for after the Brexit vote, the U.K. was thinking about "What to do with the Commonwealth," and the answer was straight out of Cecil Rhodes and Chatham House: "Let's invite America to become an associate member."
Of course Ms. May now has her work cut out for her, and frankly, it will be interesting to see if her government survives, and how long it survives. Her "war cabinet" is already grumbling, just as Mr. Churchill's began to grumble after the first - or is this the second? (or the third if you count 1814-1815) This is all getting so confusing - Fall of France (see Emmanuel Macron). And Corbyn? Should a Corbyn minority government ever form, I suspect its days, too, will be very numbered, and for many of the same reasons.
The parallels are not, of course, exact. May is no Churchill, nor is Mr. Corbyn, and neither are a very good imitation of Lord Halifax. Both are too bland and dull to be Churchill, and are too sharp and radical to be a Halifax. But the situation is, overall, bizarrely similar: a united German-led Europe, threats of invasion from barbarians with little grounding in western culture and institutions, governments of appeasement, and so on.
In any case, the results are a muddle.
Leaving the British to do what they do best in a tight place: muddle through.
See you on the flip side...