Fu­ture un­cer­tain as May loses grip

Tone of Brexit talks with EU in ques­tion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

LON­DON: Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s at­tempt to strengthen her lead­er­ship by call­ing an early elec­tion has left her author­ity in tat­ters. Yet her gam­ble had started quite dif­fer­ently. May is now due to form a gov­ern­ment sup­ported by a small North­ern Ir­ish party af­ter her Con­ser­va­tive Party lost its par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity in an elec­tion de­ba­cle days be­fore talks on Bri­tain’s EU de­par­ture are due to be­gin.

May said the gov­ern­ment would pro­vide cer­tainty and lead Bri­tain in talks with the EU to se­cure a suc­cess­ful Brexit deal. She said she could rely in par­lia­ment on the sup­port of her “friends” in North­ern Ire­land’s Demo­cratic Union­ist Party af­ter her gov­ern­ing Con­ser­va­tives failed to emerge clear win­ners.

How­ever, party in­sid­ers were this week­end putting money on when the prime min­is­ter would quit.

Party mem­bers yes­ter­day blamed what one called a “just aw­ful” cam­paign, train­ing their ire on an elec­tion team that high­lighted the 60-yearold’s flaws by stick­ing doggedly to an agreed script in­stead of mask­ing May’s weak­nesses.

Con­fi­dent of se­cur­ing a sweep­ing vic­tory, May had called the snap elec­tion to strengthen her hand in the EU di­vorce talks. At that point, polls pre­dicted she would mas­sively in­crease the slim ma­jor­ity she had in­her­ited from David Cameron. But in one of the most sen­sa­tional nights in Bri­tish elec­toral his­tory, a resur­gent Labour Party de­nied her an out­right win, throw­ing the coun­try into po­lit­i­cal tur­moil.

May had spent the cam­paign de­nounc­ing Jeremy Cor­byn as the weak leader of a spend­thrift Labour party that would crash Bri­tain’s econ­omy and floun­der in Brexit talks, while she would pro­vide “strong and sta­ble lead­er­ship” to clinch a good deal for Bri­tain.

But her cam­paign un­rav­elled af­ter a pol­icy U-turn on care for the el­derly (the so-called de­men­tia tax), while Cor­byn’s old-school so­cial­ist plat­form and more im­pas­sioned cam­paign­ing style won wider sup­port than any­one had fore­seen.

In the late stages of the cam­paign, Bri­tain was hit by two Is­lamist mil­i­tant at­tacks that killed 30 peo­ple in Manches- ter and Lon­don, tem­po­rar­ily shift­ing the fo­cus to se­cu­rity is­sues. That did not help May, who in her pre­vi­ous role as in­te­rior min­is­ter for six years had over­seen cuts in the num­ber of po­lice of­fi­cers. By the end of the seven-week run-up, May had earned the moniker “May­bot” for her ro­botic per­for­mances. Cor­byn said yes­ter­day May should step down and he wanted to form a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment. He said: “The man­date she’s got is lost Con­ser­va­tive seats, lost votes, lost sup­port and lost con­fi­dence,” he said. “I would have thought that’s enough to go, ac­tu­ally.”

With 649 of 650 seats de­clared, the Con­ser­va­tives had won 318 seats and Labour 261 fol­lowed by the pro- in­de­pen­dence Scot­tish Na­tional Party on 34. The shock re­sult thrust North­ern Ire­land’s cen­tre-right DUP into the role of king­maker, with its 10 seats enough to give the Con­ser­va­tives a frag­ile but work­able part­ner­ship.

With the com­plex talks on the di­vorce from the EU due to start in 10 days, it was un­clear whether the so-called “Hard Brexit” tak­ing Bri­tain out of a sin­gle mar­ket could still be pur­sued. – Reuters

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

A pro­tester wears a Theresa May mask in Lon­don, yes­ter­day.

PIC­TURE: AP

Votes cast in the gen­eral elec­tion are counted in Is­ling­ton in Lon­don, just af­ter the polls closed on Thurs­day.

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