Thursday, March 14, 2019

Why Doesn't Theresa May Step Aside?

Among the larger puzzles in the British political circus is this: why does Theresa May still have her job? Why has she not resigned? And if she is incapable of resigning, why has her party not removed her?

Naturally, we are less than well informed about the Brexit circus, but we are still intrigued by the fact that a leader whose plans and proposals are continually repudiated by parliament does not do the right honorable thing and step aside. After all, it’s Great Britain, the nation that gave us phrases like “right honorable gentlelady.”

It reminds us of nothing less than the pathetic spectacle of Hillary Clinton refusing to accept defeat and refusing to step off the public stage. Note that the great HRC refused to admit defeat because she insisted that her defeat had been illegitimate, that the election had been stolen, by Russian oligarchs. You know all about Russian oligarchs, the ones who gave over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation as a way to say thank you for allowing Russian interests to buy a significant percentage of the nation’s uranium supply.

Speaking of moral derelicts, how can we ignore the appalling spectacle of Hillary Clinton absolving herself of any and all responsibility for the death of American Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya with the phrase: “What difference, at this point, does it make.” In the annals of moral degeneracy, that one deserved a special star. After all, the Secretary of State is responsible for the security of her ambassadors. Stevens asked for better security in hundreds of emails. And yet, Hillary Clinton refused to accept responsibility. Thus, she showed us that she was not ready to assume the responsibilities of her own, or of any higher office. Beyond that, the Obama Justice Department was running interference for her and absolving her of responsibility for her other derelictions.

We are not alone in wondering how the Theresa May show came about? Writing in the Wall Street Journal Max Colchester lays out the story:

Prime Minister Theresa May has faced one political disaster after another, losing crucial votes and ministers at a rate not seen in British politics for decades.

Yet she’s still standing.

An extraordinary combination of factors means that despite regular drubbings in parliament, a rolling rebellion among her own cabinet and a flagship Brexit plan that was overwhelmingly rejected for a second time on Tuesday, the 62-year-old continues to hold on to power.

“Normally a leader will at some point confess the game is up,” said Mark Garnier, a Conservative Party lawmaker and former minister. “The party is slightly shocked.”

Some suggest that she is stubborn and has a strong moral sense. In truth, if she refuses to step aside, and hand the baton to a more capable hand, she has no moral sense at all. One suspects that she cannot bear the humiliation of seeing someone else, like Boris Johnson take charge and do what she could not do.

Besides, there is no way, under Parliamentary procedure, to remove her. Tory rebels tried to do so and failed already. They are not allowed to try again until December.

Colchester explains:

Adding to Mrs. May’s invulnerability is that there is no easy mechanism to remove her. Last year Conservative rebels triggered a no-confidence vote in Mrs. May as their leader. The revolt failed and now under Conservative Party rules another no-confidence vote can’t be held until December. Mrs. May, known for her stubbornness and her strong sense of duty, meanwhile refuses to quit. After her Brexit deal was rejected on Tuesday, her spokesman said she still had a mandate to govern.

Of course, May has no mandate to do much of anything. Yet, other conservatives seem willing to let her fail, because they might be thinking that it’s better to let her fail than to fail themselves. Or it could provoke a new election, in which the hapless Tories might lose.

So, conservative leaders are caught. Even if they do not want to force her out, nothing but her own stubbornness and moral deficiencies prevents her from seeing the light and resigning:

Ousting Mrs. May could result in a Conservative leader who might take Brexit in a different direction, either forcing a much deeper break from the trading bloc or keeping the country much more closely bound to the European Union.

It could also trigger an election increasing the chance of a hard-left Labour Party coming into power. So Conservative lawmakers, worried that Brexit might suddenly get more radical or not happen at all, are sitting on their hands.

“Nobody wants to mess with this,” said a prominent Conservative euroskeptic. For Conservative party officials to force a change of leader in the midst of Brexit negotiations “seems crazier even than everything else,” said Tony Travers, professor at the London School of Economics.

As for the extent of May's failure, Colchester has that story too: 

In just over 2½ years in office, Mrs. May’s government has lost 10 major votes in the House of Commons. To put that in context, during her 11 years in office former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government lost just four votes, according to the Institute for Government. In fairness, unlike Mrs. Thatcher Mrs. May oversees a minority government. But that was of her own making after she called an election in 2017 that went disastrously wrong and cost her government’s majority.

Here is where it's at today: an end-of-days scenario, an awareness that the British Conservative Party has failed and that its hapless prime minister refuses to take responsibility for the failure and to do the right honorable thing and step aside, thus taking responsibility for ignominious failure:

The deadlock has created an end-of-days feeling in Parliament. “Lots of people are wandering around talking to each other about whether we should go and see her and ask her to go,” Mr. Garnier said.

Ministers openly criticize the government, knowing that Mrs. May doesn’t have the political capital to fire them. Even Mrs. May’s supporters are damning in their praise. Steve Double, a Conservative lawmaker, said he backed her Brexit deal describing it as “a polished turd."


Anonymous said...

One begs to differ.... the problem isn't Theresa May, never was. The BREXIT circus was started by another PM, David Cameron, who promised a referendum about leaving the EU, without any definition or description of what that would entail. He has since retired and it was left to Theresa to pick up the pieces. I wonder if anyone really thought of the problems BREXIT would cause for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, Great Britain. Peace in Northern Ireland and normalcy with Ireland took generations to come about and a brighter person than Mr Cameron might have taken it into account.
Another disaster to come is the future of small and medium size companies that trade with the EU. If there is one thing that the EU does very well, it is trading within the area. It would be the best for all involved if these companies could continue to do so.
Theresa May is doing her best, and between the hard Brexiteers who would prefer to leave with no deal at all at one side, and antisemite, jihad loving communist Corbyn on the other side, it is perhaps a blessing that Theresa is clinging on.

Sam L. said...

I suspect it's going to be an ugly transition when she finally leaves office.

UbuMaccabee said...

The end-game is a return to the EU. The elites hate Brexit and, like the election of Trump, simply cannot believe it passed. That's why Cameron didn't think it through, it was supposed to be a landslide to reaffirm EU membership and silence the leave crown in a humiliating defeat. They never thought it would pass. They had the entire media apparatus on their side--all of it. So it must have been the Russians and Cambridge Analytica who did this. The people were misinformed by social media trolls. This mess is designed to get back to the status quo--EU membership.

Trump should fill the gap--offer the best trade deal of all time to England to join up with NAFTA. Who dares wins.