THERESA MAY warned voters during the election campaign that, if things went badly, Britain could face a “coalition of chaos.” How right she was.
The idea that “strong and stable leadership in the national interest,” to coin a phrase, could spring from an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and endure a full five-year term invites speculation over May’s grip on reality.
What inducements will she reveal as the price for bringing the DUP on board?
DUP priorities seem to be flying the union flag on public buildings more often in Northern Ireland than in Britain, rejecting equal marriage and lobbing significant cash sums to community organisations run by “former” unionist paramilitaries.
But it represents some of the poorest communities in the UK, which might present difficulties for the DUP if it signs up to Tory welfare cuts.
May’s justification for calling her election — to win a bigger parliamentary majority to strengthen her hand in EU haggling — was never the real reason.
If it had been, having fewer seats would mean that her government will negotiate with Brussels now from an even weaker position.
Her main motivation, after swallowing her advisers’ assessment that a landslide was there for the taking, was to seek a huge parliamentary majority to drive through unpopular public spending cuts.
May’s failure stems from a shambolic election campaign in which she was hidden from contact with the voters and chickened out of face-to-face debate with Jeremy Corbyn.
However, Corbyn was a revelation to the overwhelming majority of voters who witnessed on TV, radio, in mass rallies and on walkabout a man who bore no resemblance to the feeble-minded, incompetent extremist caricature sketched by the media and many disloyal Labour MPs.
He refused to adopt the neoliberal consensus that making big business and the rich elite pay more tax is unthinkable while squeezing low-paid workers, single parents, the disabled, the self-employed, students, young unemployed and state pensioners is just the way things are.
Many of his most trenchant inner-party critics have had to acknowledge his role in enthusing Labour supporters and bringing particularly young voters into political activity.
Above all, Corbyn has tossed into the dustbin of history the reactionary assertion that Labour cannot prosper with distinctive progressive policies.
The Morning Star was alone in the media in sharing from the start the Labour leader’s confidence that offering class-based policies and making clear arguments in their favour could alter the course of a campaign in which May appeared to hold all the cards.
Whatever dodgy deals the Prime Minister does with the DUP, she is dead in the water. She should step down now.
It is only a matter of time before her time runs out, which could precipitate an early election but need not do so.
Corbyn’s readiness to answer the challenge of leading a minority government, advocating policies capable of being supported by other parliamentary forces as well as widely outside Westminster, merits a positive response.
His commitment to guarantee on his first day in office the residence rights of EU nationals living and working in Britain would get negotiations with Brussels off to a more positive start than can be expected from a Tory lame duck.
But at least as important is how well people will live after leaving the EU, so Labour’s agenda of investment for jobs, housing, public ownership, education and the NHS must be given its opportunity when the Tory Party runs out of road.
This article appeared in The Morning Star Sat 10th June 2017.