As the threat of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party sweeping the European Union elections on May 23 gathers momentum, it seems that the very foundation of British politics is resting on unstable ground. The major U.K. parties have passed far beyond merely not connecting with their voter base and have wandered into the realm of self-sabotage.
It is a dangerous moment in history when the old order is displaced and the new comes to the fore; some voters brace themselves for the turmoil of upheaval, while others cling to the status quo in the fear that what follows may be even worse than what now exists.
Britain’s biggest parties seem poised to commit electoral suicide. Is it too late for them to crawl back from the brink?
A Matter of Trust
Prime Minister Theresa May has had a bad week, and her party, the Conservatives, has not done much better.
Keen to roll out the 5G network across the U.K., instead of awarding the contract to a British company, May opted to select the Chinese group Huawei. When news of this leaked to the press, a worldwide furor ensued.
Huawei is deeply connected to the Chinese government and is recognized by many nations to be little more than a spy agency that sells components. Both the United States and Australia have stated that they are quite troubled that May’s government would choose a known security risk to help roll out Britain’s new mobile phone network. This partnership not only damages the U.K.’s reputation but also threatens the “5-Eyes” security agreement.
To make matters worse, May has yet to announce formally whether Britain will be taking part in the European elections. Legally, unless Britain leaves the E.U. within the next 21 days, the elections must be held. Her refusal to say one way or the other not only makes the party leadership look weak but also makes May appear opportunistic.
As the Conservatives fall further and further in the E.U. electoral polls, many on Fleet Street are speculating that May could force through any deal – regardless of its merits – to avoid a humiliating defeat at the ballot box.
And the Opposition?
The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn appears to be having a crisis of confidence. Almost three years since the E.U. referendum, the party has yet to clarify its position on staying in the union.
At a recent National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, the British public was assured that a final decision would be made so as to leave plenty of time for campaigning in the run-up to the E.U. elections. The meeting didn’t end well.
Rumor has it that deputy party leader Tom Watson stormed out after being told that no one was allowed to see Labour’s policy. The meeting of minds finally came up with an official, triple official, really official Brexit position:
“The NEC agreed the manifesto which will be fully in line with Labour’s existing policy; to support Labour’s alternative plan, and if we can’t get the necessary changes to the government’s deal, or a General Election, to back the option of a public vote.”
Sadly the British public has not been made aware of what “Labour’s existing policy” is, nor what changes are “necessary.” It appears the Labour Party may be more lost than the Conservative Party.
The Change U.K. Party, a recently formed group with members of Parliament from both Labour and Conservatives, had its official launch to contest the European elections. Many wonder about its official name, which as of now is Change U.K., The Independent Group, or TIG, and why exactly it floats the “change” banner. So far, its only policy is to remain in the E.U. Perhaps its slogan should be “Vote Change, get the same.”
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has made two major announcements in recent days. The first is that it seeks a second independence referendum to remove Scotland from the United Kingdom. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon campaigned strongly for independence in 2014; the main platform was that her country would end up well off financially because Scotland would have the North Sea oil reserves to keep it afloat. The second announcement was that her party now backs declaring a National Climate Emergency, which calls for the suspension of all fossil fuel use. Quite how these two platforms go together has yet to be explained to the Scottish voters.
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