Theresa May: The Lady’s for Turning
After her meeting with the 1922 Committee of Tory backbench MPs yesterday, Theresa May took full responsibility for the general election results and for her mistakes that led to the party losing its parliamentary majority. She apologised by saying: “I’m the person who got us into this mess, and I’m going to get us out of it.”
She promised to listen to all the voices in the party on Brexit, adopt a more Labour-style approach to Brexit by putting “jobs first,” and reassured those fearing of a deal with conservative DUP, that it won’t affect gay rights.
Her new chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, explained that the government would have to change its austerity plans and its hard approach on Brexit since the general election results showed that the Tories failed to respond to the people’s concerns about their “quality of life,” something that Jeremy Corbyn managed to do.
No Tory Brexit
The PM would have to rethink and change some of her manifesto proposals, while, at the same time, abandoning her simplistic view of a hard Brexit. In an attempt to satisfy Tory Brexiteers, May has neglected the other voices within her party that voted to Remain. For Gavin Barwell, “We are very clear in my seat, that the area of the constituency where Labour did best was the area that had voted heavily for Remain… So there's clearly evidence, I think, that people are angry about Brexit still, Jeremy Corbyn somehow managed to get them behind him. We do need to make sure that people that are Conservative-minded that voted Remain in the referendum are happy to continue supporting our party.”
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, also agreed with this view, saying that “this isn’t going to be a Tory Brexit.” On Monday, she told BBC reporters: “I'm suggesting that the Conservative Party works with those both within the House of Commons and with people without to ensure that as we leave the EU we have a Brexit that works for the economy and puts that first. There was a real sense around the cabinet table today, as you would expect from centre right politicians, that that is the primacy we're looking for.” She added: “We do have to make sure that we invite other people in now. This isn't just going to be a Tory Brexit, this is going to have to involve the whole country. We can make a big, bold offer that brings the country with us, that brings people in from the other side of the aisle in the House of Commons but also brings people in from outside the Commons too.”
The idea that there should be a cross-party approach to the Brexit negotiations is becoming increasingly attractive to many politicians and the public, with former Tory leader William Hague, Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Harriet Harman, and the SNP’s leader Nicola Sturgeon calling for all parties to join in the talks. Cooper said: “After the referendum last year, I called for the government to approach this in a cross-party way to get the best deal. Now it is more important than ever. There is neither strength nor stability in a narrow, bunkered one-party approach; you need to include people with different ideas to get the best deal and widest support.”
A softer Brexit, where everybody’s opinion is heard, and which doesn’t abandon access to the single market and the customs union, is a more attractive alternative to May’s hard Brexit.
A petition that asks for the Brexit negotiations to be carried out by a multi-party committee has been signed by 80,000 people. Businesses prefer this multi-party approach and both HSBC chairman Douglas Flint and head of asset managers M&G Anne Richards, have called for an “all the talents” Brexit strategy.
Theresa May’s DUP meeting and House of Commons’ speech
Today, May met with DUP leader, Arlene Foster, before giving a speech at the House of Commons. Both leaders were positive, with Foster saying that she is hopeful that a “successful conclusion” will be reached. The discussions lasted for two hours and are “going well”, according to the Press association.
After the meeting, May arrived at the House of Commons, where MPs voted John Bercow as the speaker of the House. May and Corbyn gave speeches, with May joking about Bercow’s “landslide win.” “At least someone got a landslide,” she playfully said.
In his speech, Corbyn said we look forward to this parliament, “no matter how short it might me,” and he welcomed the numbers of young people who took part in the election. He also addressed May, saying how he is looking forward to the Queen’s speech when the “coalition of chaos” is ready. He also proposed that Labour could provide a “strong and stable” government, if Theresa May is unable to do so.
John Major’s BBC Radio 4’s The World at One interview
While Theresa May has sought to appease politicians and the public that a DUP deal doesn’t mean that the Conservatives would embrace the DUP’s extreme ideology, John Major has warned that a Tory-DUP deal could threaten the equilibrium of Northern Ireland’s affairs. He proposed that May could run a minority government and avoid any alliance with the DUP. He said: “The last thing anybody wishes to see is one or other of the communities so aggrieved that the hard men, who are still there lurking in the corners of the community, decide that they wish to return to some form of violence. We really need to do everything we conceivably can to make sure that doesn’t happen. And that does require an impartial UK government.”
He also stressed that a hard Brexit was “increasingly unsustainable,” and that the government should “bring in much wider parliamentary opinion” on Brexit, be more “generous” on immigration and re-consider its position on the single market.
He advised that the “public need facts and not idle hopes.” The referendum was an “awful campaign,” but moving forward, he admitted that a cross-party approach to Brexit would be “very wise.”