The PM is weak—but her speech today was politically smart. If the government and Labour can work together, on Brexit, employment practices or anything else, then real progress can be made. If not, then the opposition will be blamedby Rachel Cunliffe / July 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
The 52 per cent of voters who chose to leave the EU did not consist only of traditional Tories. In fact, as Brexiteers have been keen to remind us, Leave voters came from all sorts of different communities. That’s why Labour chose to join the Conservatives in advocating that Britain leave the EU in the last election. Combined, these two pro-Brexit parties won 80 per cent of the vote.
What these numbers show is that Brexit is a cross-party issue. We have accepted that it is going to happen, but how we go about the most important challenge Britain has faced in generations is very much up for debate. And in this, there is no excuse whatsoever for partisan politics.
I will acknowledge that this may not have been Theresa May’s top consideration today when, in a speech marking a year since she became PM, she invited other parties to “come forward with your own views and ideas about how we can tackle these challenges as a country.” The zombie prime minister doesn’t even have the support of her party, let alone of parliament, and even with the ten DUP MPs propping up her government, her position is far too weak to ram through legislation of any significance (even more so now that Anne Marie Morris has been suspended for her use of unacceptable language.) Indeed, she said in her speech: the election result “wasn’t what I wanted.”
This is why May has extended a hand across the aisle and offered collaboration—so that real progress can be made. Not just on Brexit, but on seemingly intractable problems like low pay in the gig economy—another subject of her speech, in light of Matthew Taylor’s review on employment practices being published today.
Her decision to reach out may be induced by weakness and necessity, but it is actually a stroke of genius. By suggesting cooperation, May is daring Labour MPs to refuse her. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have spent their political careers rejecting compromise, choosing the purity of ideology over the tangible results of pragmatism every time. That is why any government led by them would crumble at the first thorny domestic or geopolitical quandary—not all 21st-century…