‘Keep calm and carry on’ has hit the rocks of Brexit in Britain. Ever since ex Prime Minister David Cameron called the referendum on leaving Europe, the British have gone into a very British civil war. Most civil wars end up in tears, bloodshed and dead bodies. In this case, that is political bloodshed and political dead bodies. One referendum and one election later, the business of governance seems in chaos. Platitudes conceal knives, waiting to out at the first chink of career opportunity and UK is wide open for daylight robbing. The new slogan that fits Britain now is ‘Keep wrangling and ramble on’. Meanwhile Europeans, the Commonwealth and even the rest of the world is a little dazed by, first the referendum outcome and now the 8th June 2017 General Election outcome. The world is recalibrating its views about UK.
Theresa May called an early election, breaking the rule of fixed Parliament her predecessor had introduced That rule only lasted one Parliament in UK history. Her party lost the majority but remains the biggest party. She has been deeply wounded and is risking the Northern Ireland Peace process to form a coalition Government. The combined opposition parties who call themselves progressives are about 10 short of forming a majority.
A whole gang of et-Brutuses have lined up behind the British Prime Minister Theresa May, publicly portraying her as the new Britannia amidst the rubble of political defeat, while eager to assassinate her at the first opportunity. Unlike Caesar, she has prior knowledge of this doom which could come at any time the atmosphere permits the traitors. She has lined up all the assassins to sit besides her at the top table. The precise date of Ides of May (March) isn’t yet known.
There is Boris, previous mayor of London, labelled a perpetual leadership seeker, hovering with his brand sharp and offensive language. There is also Michael Gove, an unashamed opportunist even by British standards and whose statements can change by the minute and has come back into the cabinet to be kept a close eye on.
There are a whole host of contenders waiting to bring Theresa May down and take the crown for themselves. This is Shakespearean Britain at its best. The British Conservative Party is like a pack of wolves. At the first weakness of the leader of the pack, competitors emerge and turn on the leader until a new one emerges, then they fall in line happily hunting together in the ‘interest of the nation’ as they like saying. This is one of the most repeated phrase in British politics when politicians give vent to their personal ambitions. Theresa May is badly wounded, walking on three legs at the moment and could slip anytime.
The main opposition, The labour Party, is literally walking on water at the moment unable to believe its success. It came better than expected but not a winner. Everyone, except some like me, had predicted a horrible RIP for its leader Jeremy Corbyn. As it is, he ended up a version of the biblical David and wounded Goliath (Tory beasts) but unfortunately didn’t quite slay it. He and his party are walking around dazed, elated and don’t quite know what to do with ‘victory yes but no victory.’
Wolves (Tories) have a way of surviving as a pack. Lambs, get slaughtered. Sooner or later, if Labour does not walk back on land, its own internal head butting will bleed it sending it to the chronically ill sickbay for another ten years. There are quite a number of ‘moderate’ Labour MPs who cannot think outside the 1990s Thatcher vision of the future and they are convinced the Party has to go back there. Labour is easily shredded by ideological wars.
So mighty Britain that likes to throw its weight around the world, get stuck in every war that is going around in the globe, label unstable countries as ‘failed states’, now has a minority Government, a PM walking on crutches, an opposition that is not quite leadership numbers yet and a political class providing daily live entertainment.
What does it mean for the world? Nothing much now. As I wrote in another article, after the initial shock the world will adjust and carry as usual with or without Britain’s tantrums. Not only will the world financial monitors downscale Britain’s rating a peg or two, but the world will downscale the British from a sensible stable dependable force to well, wranglers rambling on day by day.
There has been a year to adjust for the world and that seems to have happened pretty well. No one is turning to Britain for advice let alone leadership. Except perhaps poor Qatar now conveniently being made fall guy in Middle East for terrorism. Qatar has invested a lot in Britain and Britain cant turn any money away now. Two desperados hugging each other.
The Europeans are already looking at the silverware and the goods to rob. It happens in every civil war. Shops get looted. Europe wants to pluck the financial sector away from London. India wants to take some of the brainpower and fill British universities and jobs with students and Indian graduates. America wants Britain to be its unquestioning cheer leader, something Trump nearly achieved when he seduced Theresa May with hand holding. Her fall from Grace in this election has put the Trump plan for Britain on hold.
What has Brexit and the recent election told the world? That the fabled ‘sensible stable Britain’ has developed judgement deficit and is prone to making catastrophic mistakes. At one time these mistakes caused the world to develop fever and tectonic changes. Now it appears that it matters not. No major leader has jumped over himself/herself to congratulate British PM and no country seems to be suffering as a result of British tantrums.
There is a silver lining for Britain. Times change and it is the British who will have to adjust to a confident world. Brand British is no longer ‘power, stability and sensible’ . British youth have recognised that for quite some time and do not go around the world with a condescending attitude. They know their future lies in getting on with the world and not expecting the world to get on with it on its terms. British Youth have also at last come out of their voter apathy to take the future in their hands. That is the outcome of this election.
After a few years of rambling on, the world will see a more stable and collegiate Britain, metamorphosed from its imperial past to being just another country in the world, getting on as best as it can. This election may have been a disaster for the Tories, but it is a watershed moment when Britain begins to hand over decision making to another and more realistic generation that does not have the baggage of an imperial past driving its judgement.