Welcoming ‘May’ in July
On July 13, 10 Downing Street had a new inmate-Theresa May. May is the second woman Prime Minister in United Kingdom after Margaret Thatcher. Since the time she got elected, she was quick enough to form her cabinet. Also, in her first cabinet meeting she made the nation aware by declaring that terror attacks are “highly likely”. What’s next? She will soon be meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Being all praise for ex-Prime Minister David Cameron, in her first speech as Prime Minister she vowed to follow in Cameron’s footsteps. Further she stressed that her party is “a conservatist and Unionist party”, emphasising first the importance of union of nations of the United Kingdom and then the union of its citizens, vowing to fight against racial justice and went on to place common people over “a privileged few”.
Novelist Ruchir Sharma has rightly elaborated in his latest ‘Rise and Fall of Nations’, on the idea of leadership. In the book he explains how when leaders come to power their agenda is reform-driven, but then that agenda gradually disappears or fades away when they overstay, suggesting that ideally leaders should stay for not more than two terms.
The case of Madam May is no different. She is simply evading the issue of Brexit which is the problem at hand, about which she is rather undecided. Still not ready to trigger Article 50, she wants to further negotiate terms with the European Union. Though she has maintained “Brexit means Brexit”, two years down the line it will anyway have to exit from European Union. Till then will it be appropriate to stall the move? This move of May might hamper Britain’s economy as access to single market might decline because of her opposition to immigrants. The ripple effect of such a stalemate will affect economies worldwide.
While May’s journey to Westminster was rather smooth, the new Tory leader is at the helm at a time when the nation is in troubled waters and to emerge victorious through these testing times would be her true litmus test. The course she takes hereon will shape the future of the nation.
The former home secretary, has started by creating her Cabinet, she has appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. David Davis and Liam Fox as secretary of state (Brexit Secretary) and international trade respectively-two pivotal positions in wake of Brexit. Philip Hammond as Chancellor. Michael Fallon holds on to defence.
May has inducted more female members, Amber Rudd, Justine Greening and Theresa Villiers. Going back to when she was a former home secretary in Cameron’s government, she had some remarkable moments. From putting an end to “stop and search” policy of police which reeked of racial bias to being an arch and vocal opponent of Cameron’s budget austerity measures to confronting public pressure to reduce immigration as also helping push through surveillance policies that balanced fears of terrorism against civil liberties, Theresa has always shown sparks of a great and powerful leader. Thus, it won’t be wrong to describe her a no-nonsense politician.
But all this won’t help to overlook her anti-immigration stand. She is firmly opposed to immigration. This is crucial as to negotiate terms with EU she has to have a rather soft approach towards immigration policy. How she strikes a balance by minimising the economic damage to the United Kingdom without actually allowing the influx of immigrants will be worth watching.
During her leadership campaign, May said, “We need an economy that works for everyone”, pledging to crack down on executive pay by making shareholders’ votes binding rather than advisory and to put workers onto company boards, policies that The Guardian describes as going further than the Labour Party’s 2015 General Election manifesto.
After she became Prime Minister, May’s first speech espoused the left, with a promise to combat the “burning injustice” in British society and to create a union “between all of our citizens” and promising to be an advocate for the “ordinary working-class family” and not for the affluent in the UK. “The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws we’ll listen not to the mighty, but to you. When it comes to taxes we’ll prioritise not the wealthy but you.”
Apart from having to kick-start Brexit negotiations, May also has to salvage a plummeting economy and unite a divided nation. What comes as a solace is the splintered opposition. While the Conservatives strive to unite, there is a complete chaos in the opposition. The opposition Labour Party faces leadership crisis under Jeremy Corbyn, the populist UK Independence Party has a vacuum at the top following the resignation of its leader, Nigel Farage. And although the Scottish Nationalists, the third-biggest party in Westminster, are united under Nicola Sturgeon, they are uncertain how and when to pursue independence post-Brexit.
What Theresa May really ought to do is implement Brexit. Though her anti-immigration stance is her Achilles heel, she must strive to build a better Britain.
On a global impact of Brexit, while the initial waves were not so harmful and the economies worldwide could sail through these times, the scenario won’t be same any further. IMF, however, cautions that a longer period of uncertainty lies ahead until UK-EU renegotiate trade and financial relationships, avoiding large increase in economic barriers that would not disrupt financial markets afresh. According to predictions, the referendum-hit country will slow down from an earlier estimated 1.9 per cent to 1.7 per cent in 2016 and from 2.2 to 1.3 per cent in 2017. But for the longest serving home minister in modern times, she shows the ability to overcome all hurdles and roadblocks in her way to make UK a better nation.
While projections remain broadly unchanged for developing economies, strangely India, the world’s “bright spot” and “fastest-growing economy”, is an exception with growth revised down from the 7.6 per cent in 2015 to 7.4 per cent for both fiscal 2017 and 2018 (as against the earlier IMF estimate of 7.5 per cent for these two years.) According to IMF, “In India, economic activity remains buoyant, but the growth forecast for 2016-2017 (two fiscal years) was trimmed slightly, reflecting a more sluggish investment recovery”. The results therefore, don’t seem good for India.
Britons voting for Brexit in the referendum was followed by Cameron stepping down from the PM chair. Theresa May’s entry in the picture has to be followed further with a daunting task to bring UK’s economy back on track(evident in weakening pound) and to bring her divided party together.
*May has served longer in the difficult cabinet post of home secretary, overseeing the nation’s domestic security and immigration agencies, than any since the 19th century. She has held the post since 2010, 13 years after she was first elected to Parliament. She is considered a moderate in the Conservative Party and has been compared to Angela Merkel.
*Though May supported Prime Minister David Cameron’s stance in favor of remaining in the European Union, she said little publicly during the referendum campaign, leading to some speculation that she privately favored leaving, known as Brexit. That ambiguity helped her to emerge as a compromise candidate who might promise to unify the party’s factions.
*Like Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, Ms May was born into a middle-class family. She was educated at Oxford, where she belonged to the Conservative Association and the Oxford Union, a debating society known for producing future leaders. In 1976, she was introduced to Philip May, her future husband, by Benazir Bhutto.