Best of Times … Worst of Times … Controversial alliance in UK
~ Syed Nasir Ershad
British Prime Minister Theresa May appears to have begun a purge in her party after shock election results threw the future of her leadership in doubt. May’s co-chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, announced their resignations Saturday on the Conservative Home political blog. Timothy conceded in a statement that he had failed to carry out an effective election campaign, while Hill made no mention of her performance. May suffered a humiliating blow as the “snap election” Thursday spectacularly backfired, stripping her Conservative Party of its commanding majority in Parliament. She had called the vote three years earlier than required by law, with the aim of sweeping an even greater majority for her party before Brexit talks in nine days to take the country out of the European Union.
May’s attempts to form a government with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) appear to be taking longer than first thought, as Downing Street said negotiations are ongoing despite an earlier statement that a deal had been reached. The Prime Minister is also fending off a mutiny in her own party. Conservative MPs are publicly airing their anger, some calling for her ouster and others demanding radical change in her style of leadership. Several MPs have said they were angered by key points in the Conservatives’ manifesto, the document that outlined the party’s agenda.
Nigel Evans was among Conservative MPs to call for Timothy’s resignation, and said anyone with their fingers on the document should resign. Evans confirmed that some MPs are calling for May’s resignation, although he himself is not. But he slammed May’s style of governance as tone deaf to her own Cabinet ministers and MPs, whom he said were better in touch with voters on the ground. He said the party’s commanding lead in the polls of 20 percentage points at the start of the election period dramatically narrowed after the launch of the Conservatives’ manifesto, which he said was ‘mean-spirited’ in its call for a cut funding for children’s school lunches and to charge the elderly more for their own care.
Katie Perrior, May’s former director of communications, described an atmosphere of toxicity and intimidation by Timothy and Hill. Another Conservative MP, Anna Soubry, told after the results came in that May has to obviously consider her position and take personal responsibility for the ‘dreadful’ election campaign and ‘deeply flawed’ manifesto. She also echoed comments made by Evans and Perrior that much of the party had been shut out of the campaign. Timothy said in his statement that the election result was ‘a huge disappointment.’ He took responsibility for his part in this election campaign, which was the oversight of their policy program. Though he refuted reports he was responsible for the elderly care policy, saying it was ‘the subject of many months of work’ among many people. Hill described May as an ‘excellent Prime Minister’ in her resignation statement.
May is now looking to rule the country with less than 50% of seats in Parliament’s House of Commons, and is banking on support from the DUP to be the ally that helps her party push its agenda through Parliament. Contrary to an earlier statement which suggested May had reached a preliminary deal with the DUP, Downing Street said Saturday that such a deal had yet to be finalized. The DUP meanwhile said that discussion will continue into next week ‘to work on the details and to reach agreement on arrangements for the new Parliament.’
May’s courting of DUP has triggered criticism in the media and among members of her party, who have described DUP as anti-abortionist and regressive on LGBTI rights. Ruth Davidson, a Conservative in Scotland, told the BBC she had words with May over the DUP’s record on LGBT rights. Pressure is now also coming from the public. A petition on Change.org had more than half a million signatures by Saturday afternoon, calling for May’s resignation over her alliance with the DUP. There have been few clues as to how May might shake up her administration, but the Prime Minister, who campaigned under the mantra ‘strong and stable,’ announced that she would retain five key Cabinet ministers in their posts.