Kathy Sheridan: May should apologise to the people of Britain

Prime minster has shown contempt for the 48 per cent who voted Remain

British prime minister Theresa May confirms that she will form a government backed by the DUP.

 

How does someone who listens to no one get elected to preside over a chess club, let alone a country of 65 million?

How does that happen in a healthy democracy? To the glass-half-full contingent, the answer is right there in the election result. Theresa May got her comeuppance and that’s how a healthy democracy works. Yet the Conservatives, for all their spittle-flecked authoritarianism and parody of a campaign, still managed to pull in more seats and votes than anyone else. UK governance now hangs on the demands of the DUP – last heard maturely banging the floor and tables in ecstasy in their Stormont office and reportedly calling for the ennoblement of Nigel Farage – aka 0.6 per cent of the kingdom’s electorate.

So much for taking back control. But hark, witness May rising out of the deluge, head a little askew, triggering another infantile table banging session by her MPs in response to her freshly minted, humble, humanoid persona, which promised to dig them out of what she contritely called the “mess” of her making.

‘Shambles’

Channel 4’s Jon Snow called it a “shambles” , provoking a lecture from Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg on the distinction between a “mess” and a “shambles”.

A shambles is a butcher’s slaughter house, which is “a good deal worse than a mess”, said a droll Rees-Mogg. “Surprised you didn’t know.”

Hilarious within the Westminster bubble, no doubt. But if, as a citizen living through a period of relentless cuts, you have just witnessed £130 million being hurled into a bonfire called snap-election- to-produce-a-landslide-and-electoral-breathing-space-beyond-Brexit-meltdown, you might be less than amused.

Self-preservation means having to say you’re sorry and May managed to pull it out of the software. “She nailed the sorry,” said one MP happily, following her fulsome apology to the parliamentary party.

What about the electorate? Why should she apologise to the electorate, asked Rees-Mogg. Well, why would she apologise to the party then? What’s the difference?

The difference is a leader who chooses to put party and self before country.

That was why David Cameron initiated the Brexit referendum. It was why May pursued an insanely hard Brexit and called an entirely unnecessary election.

Yes, a political leader’s imperative is to win and retain power in order to implement party policy. But at this point, the Tory tendency signifies something a good deal worse than a tin ear.

It shows a leader and a party bereft of emotional intelligence. If your pig-headed, 14-year-old with the edgy boyfriend took the family car and crashed it into a wall, you would probably be teary eyed at her contrite apology and her promise to ditch the boyfriend and consult all round before indulging in any further japes with family property.

When May, a grown woman, did that to a country, she showed her contriteness by ditching the two chiefs of staff, implicitly admitting that she never knew or spoke her own mind, then promised to consult all round in future. The astounding thing is that it has worked for now with the Tory family. They banged enthusiastically on the tables for about 30 seconds before she opened her mouth at Monday’s meeting and a remainer to the left of the party was said to be “teary-eyed” as they expressed their renewed support for her.

A former minister was pleased to report she had “agreed to listen to all the wings of the party” on Brexit. Of the party, note.

By yesterday, the new listening project had moved on to talk of proper collegiality, a cross-party Brexit commission to embrace business and the trade unions, one that would place jobs and the economy at the heart of it, rather than immigration. And so, it took a full year, the murder of MP Jo Cox, the pawning of four million EU workers in the UK, the loss of its once proud international authority, the rising concerns over the peace process, and much more, to arrive at an understanding that a five-year-old would have sussed on day one.

Group hug

The missing link in the teary-eyed, parliamentary group hug is any explanation or apology to the people of the UK for May’s previous behaviour and her party’s acquiescence: for the implacable contempt for the 48 per cent who voted Remain (now at more than 50 per cent according to latest polls) and for EU process; for the obsessive determination to prioritise immigration and placate the extreme fringes.

News of a 96 per cent drop in EU nurses registering to work in Britain since the referendum is just one indicator of where that policy was headed.

If some of us are a little regretful that May has been brought to earth, it is because there is no sanction for the fall-out from her hard-galloping year in sole power and the unnecessary £130 million election, apart from her temporary humiliation. The people must suck it up.

I like to think we would not be so forgiving.

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