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By Morak Babajide-Alabi
You know the political end is in sight when a leader had to repeatedly take to the media to confirm that he/she still enjoys the support of the people. This is the situation Theresa May, the embattled Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has found herself. She has to justify her continued stay in government and the leadership of the Conservative Party.
One would have thought by now, months after the results of the near fatal snap general elections that she naively called for, she would have settled down to the job of leading Britain, especially out of the European Union. May is “supposed” to be the modern day Biblical Moses to demand for the “release” of UK citizens from the “oppressive” grip of the “Pharaonic” European bureaucrats.
Just like Moses who had to contend with murmurings and rebellions while the Israelites roam the wilderness, May is under immense pressure. You would have expected her position to be secured with the strange coalition she was forced to enter with the Democratic Unionists Party (DUP) to keep her in office. This is not the case, as she is fighting the hardest political battle of her career right now.
It is so bad to the extent that political observers are concluding that May would be long gone before the end of winter. This is an extension on the earlier forecast of her being “long gone by December”. While one cannot say with certainty if they have got this right this time, the bookies have however started taking bets on her losing her job pretty soon.
May’s concern is convincing her party members that she is still fit for purpose on Downing Street. The electorates have no say on her fate for the time being because if there is no revolt within her party, no general elections will be called. The air of revolt however, is thickening around her and if care if not taken she would choke inside it. The main opposition Labour Party is enjoying the drama from the side lines. The leaders are praying for an implosion of the Tories so they could take advantage at the resultant elections.
One can easily relate to the rebellion within her party though. Some of the key members cannot forgive her for the losses recorded by the party in the elections. As a result, she has been openly criticised and also called to leave the stage now for a fresh blood.
May enjoys robust support from some key members of the party. One cannot but notice the role Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary is playing in this unfolding drama. Of recent, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary also defended May. Going by history, Gove would go any length to make sure one of May’s main critics, Boris Johnson the Foreign Secretary, do not succeed the Prime Minister.
While they have continually denied there is any rift within the party, the open disregard and criticisms of May by Johnson, suggests otherwise. He has, in recent times sustained his criticisms and, suggestively thrashing the handling of the BREXIT negotiations.
He is not alone in this cause. Matthew Parris, the former Conservative MP, also descended heavily on May in his Time on Saturday column as “zombie prime minister leading a zombie cabinet in a zombie party”. The former co-chair of the party between 2012 and 2015, Grant Shapps, has gone a step further by claiming on Friday that he has the backing of nearly 30 party MPs, including former Cabinet ministers.
Shapps is reported to have said: “We think the prime minister should stand aside now voluntarily so there can be a leadership election as soon as possible.” It is not clear yet if he would be able to get the required number of 48 to put a nail in May’ political coffin.
May has never rubbed off people as the best in Britain. Her supporters however, argue that at this time in history, she has the best credentials to rule. I have never being a fan of the Prime Minister, right from her days as the Home Office Secretary. For whatever reasons, she cuts the figure of a ruthless hard woman
She has been portrayed many times in the past as the reincarnated Margaret Thatcher of British politics that was not ready for turning. But her changing stances on elections promises will make the Iron Lady turn in her grave. She has tried to sound like Thatcher and has variously given sound bites that will compare her to the late Prime Minister.
As a two term Home Secretary, she was the brain behind all the immigration policies churned out by the Cameron administration. Her focus was more on how to dehumanise immigrants (especially from non EEA countries) and portray them as of no use to the UK systems. She tightened the noose around the necks of many immigrant students and made it very difficult for some of them to breathe.
We can still recollect her reaction to the humanitarian crisis that resulted after immigrants from war torn countries took to the Mediterranean Sea to cross over to Europe. While it is recognised she had to protect her country, she came across as a woman without any human feeling in her.
In my October 25 2015 column titled “When Theresa Talks UK Immigration, We Believe Some”, I wrote “May is a straight-talker who sometimes comes across as a woman without the milk of compassion in her. Her rejection of the European Union proposal of settling some of the rescued “Mediterranean sea immigrants” to UK will rank high among the most inconsiderate speeches made by any government official in the wake of the refugee crisis.”
On Wednesday last week at the Tory Conference in Manchester we saw the vulnerability of May. We saw the supposedly hard woman lose her stride at the moment it matters most. The conference was supposed to be a platform for her to re-launch her dwindling political fortunes. It turned out to be the worst nightmare for her.
Fate plays cruel jokes on human beings, and for May, Manchester was the venue. Live on stage she was handed a fake P45 letter (meaning her employment was over) by prankster Simon Brodkin. May’s “call for help” was visible on her face as she momentarily decided whether to collect the fake P45 or ignore it. No help came nor did any thunder strike the prankster (as she would have wished). In a slow motion, May stretched forth her hand and collected the paper. After this she lost her stride and wobbled through the speech that could have saved her career.
I must confess it was heart breaking to watch. Right there in front of the world the UK Prime Minister embarrassingly lost her stride and went into a fit of coughs and sniffing. As May gulped glasses of water rapidly, and failed to suppress the rebellion in her throat, I felt a tear drop roll down my face and a crack in my heart for her. I may not be a fan, but I do not think she deserved such a humiliating experience.
Maybe it is time for May to go as the end of winter may be too long for her. Every step she takes now is turning out to be wrong.
As published in the Sunday Vanguard of October 8, 2017