Thursday 14 July 2016

The safety of the frying pan

The UK’s new Prime Minister has been referred to many times in recent days as someone who ‘campaigned for Remain’.  This seems to me to be an extremely loose use of the word ‘campaigned’.  As I recall, she said little or nothing during the campaign, save to broadly agree with the anti-immigration line of the Leavers; and there was speculation about which side she’d support right up until the formal start of the campaign.  I’ve wondered throughout whether the tag of ‘reluctant remainer’ should not have been ‘secret leaver’; someone who chose, perhaps simply out of loyalty, to state her support for the official position of the then government and prime minister without really believing it.
Whether that’s true, or whether it’s simply the zeal of the convert, the placing of prominent anti-EU figures in key positions of influence over foreign relations looks to me to be a clear indication of her determination to press ahead with Brexit, regardless of what emerges during negotiations.
It also looks as though the government’s economic policy will change significantly; the ideological commitment to ‘austerity’ is quietly being sidelined, and the rhetoric looks likely to change.
Calls for a new election because none of us voted for the new PM are the natural but misplaced reaction of opposition parties – after all, outside of the Witney constituency, no-one voted for Cameron either.  The UK does not operate a presidential system of government (although personally, I’m attracted by the idea of separate elections for the legislature and the executive); we elect a parliament from which a PM is then chosen, and there’s nothing to stop any party of government changing its leader (and therefore the PM) at any time. 
There is though a much better argument for holding a new election; if the ‘new’ government jettisons much of the manifesto on which all the MPs of the outgoing government were elected, then that is a change compared to what we voted for.  And economic policy was central to the Tories’ manifesto just a year ago.  I’m not sure how good an idea a new election is though; I wouldn’t care to predict the likely outcome.  Jumping from the pan into the fire might not turn out to be the brightest idea.

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