By Morak Babajide-Alabi
For quite some time now the United Kingdom is the focus of political observers all over the world. Activities in the country last week shifted focus from important news, such as the Yemen ceasefire agreement or the historic visit of the Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to Somalia. While the world was fixated on the confusion crafted in Britain, the sentencing of Michael Cohen, the former fixer for President Donald Trump of the United States of America, became a less juicy news item.
The focus was mainly on the struggles of Prime Minister Theresa May. Her battles with herself, her party members, the “confidence and supply” party members, the opposition party, the European Union bureaucrats, and members of the public. For May this past week will not be forgotten in a hurry.
To say the happenings in the country border on “ridiculousness” is to state the obvious. There are serious concerns on the way forward for a country that willfully inflicted as much pain on herself. While the mistake of the referendum on the exit of the country from the EU cannot be reversed, the leaders have succeeded in projecting their lack of tact and political maturity to the world.
Let us be frank, the poor handling of the BREXIT negotiations is now the hallmark of a disoriented British political class. Since the results of the 2016 referendum, an exercise former Prime Minister Tony Blair termed “man-made” error, the divide in the country has become wider for any meaningful discussion on the way forward.
This past couple of weeks have exposed the “ridiculousness” of the political division of a country, once seen as a reference point for maturity, and the people regarded as well-mannered. With the BREXIT issues, the British seem willing to sacrifice their politeness for a messy divorce from the EU.
The ruling party members are divided along various lines and are not willing to shift. There have been rebellions, breaking of established norms and the attempt to sack Theresa May. You would have thought these actors and actresses will get together and present a simple script easy to act out on stage. Instead, they are screaming at the top of their voices, wanting to be scriptwriters, directors and producers.
The impression now is that Britain parades a group of uncoordinated and confused people who do not know what they really want. The BREXIT referendum has turned a once cherished political system into a comic act and the toll is becoming unbearable on the country and the people.
The citizens are confused as they do not know who among their representatives they should believe. Some of them have mastered the art of speaking from both sides of their mouths and have no idea of a meaningful BREXIT. The thoughts of a hard, soft, Irish backstop were not on the cards when citizens cast their votes in 2016. With the carry-ons between their government and the EU. leaders, some of these voters are regretting their decisions now.
The ruling Conservative Party has lost the plot for BREXIT. The rosy future that was painted for the electorate before the referendum is replaced with gloom predictions of what will befall them outside the EU. The Michael Goves, the Boris Johnsons, the Nigel Farages have all downplayed their theatrics on NHS and immigration.
The question now is who will save the UK from itself? As May is dithering, jittery, running up and down the continent like a headless chicken, whom can the British people look unto now? The dilemma here is that there is no credible alternative. She knows this, her party members know this, the public realises this and the opposition party members acknowledge the fact.
The opposition party leader Jeremy Corbyn is a long shot to occupy 10 Downing Street. There is something about Corbyn that suggests that he would make a mess of the exit than Mrs May is doing now. The wave of support he got during the 2017 snap general elections seems to have waned as he and his party dilly dally on the way forward. Is it hard Brexit, soft Brexit or no Brexit? No one can say for certain where Corbyn stands.
Could this explain why he is foot-dragging on calling for a vote of no confidence in May after she pulled the parliamentary vote on Monday? Despite the prompting of other opposition parties leaders, Corbyn is cautious to make any move. Does this suggest an understanding of Corbyn, by Corbyn? Well, in British politics, never say never.
In the ruling Conservative Party, many names have come up as likely successor to May. However, in my opinion, there are two, that should never be considered. They are Michael Gove, the current Environment Secretary and Dominic Raab, the former Brexit Secretary. Who wants a Gove that speaks from both sides of his mouth? The British deserve more than Raab that sat through a negotiation without any word of criticism, only to turn around to condemn the draft of the deal.
One cannot but pity May. This woman has hardly had any meaningful sleep, in a long while. The Brexit nightmare has kept her awake for many nights. Nowadays she cuts the figure of someone desperate to make history. But the question is, how good or bad will history write her? The way and manner she is carrying on portend a political doom for her.
It is not an easy ride as she tries to steer the stalled ship of the UK out of the European waters. She is at her wits ends – pulling, pushing and stretching in a bid to have safe berthing. This last week was the culmination of the drama that has continually threatened her premiership.
The general reaction of the public, analysts and her own political party members to the publication of her draft of exit agreement with the EU leaders a few weeks ago should have indicated to her that the road ahead would be very rough. It was clear to all, except May and her handlers that there was no way the majority of the members of Parliament would approve the draft. Characteristically Mrs May carried on as if she had the veto power to push the agreement in place.
She was adamant and uncompromising in her position that the deal she had from the EU leaders was the best achievable at this time. She rebuffed the suggestion of her going back to the E.U. leaders to renegotiate a few issues, especially the Irish backstop.
Mrs May just like a drug user destined to self destruct, insisted that it was either her deal or no deal at all. You would have expected her to be more pragmatic in her approach, especially as prominent cabinet members resigned.
May ate her words when she headed to Europe on Tuesday to try to “change the minds” of the EU leaders. One after the other, she was told there was no help they could render to her. On Friday, May left Brussels with no legal assurances to the Irish backstop, and this technically means she is back at the starting point again. She is buying time, but it is not working for her.
She survived a no-confidence vote on Wednesday, but she is not off the hook yet. Meanwhile, for the UK, it is still a long way to the EXIT.
This piece was published in the Diaspora Matters of the Sunday Vanguard of December 16, 2018.