Sunday, June 4, 2017

UK’s chance to pull back from the brink

Later this week Britons will vote in an unnecessary election they did not want, called by an opportunistic Prime Minister who thought she could turn a modest majority in the House of Commons into a landslide.

Theresa May had checked the calendar and realised that if the Parliament had run its full course, she would face the electorate just months after having pulled the United Kingdom from the European Union when the results of that disastrous decision where beginning to bite home.

May’s Conservative Party would have been destroyed in a 2020 election and she knew it.

Instead she reasoned that by putting that date back a couple of years Britons would have time to get used to their new situation and she would be in a position to pull off yet another victory, cementing her place in history as the Prime Minister who delivered Brexit and survived.

It is a measure of May’s monumental arrogance that she truly believes she can do it — but this is not about an election in 2020 or 2022. Later in the week there is an opportunity to reflect on the course the nation is taking under the current leadership and consider whether that course is the wisest one.

I would encourage a vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, or in constituencies where it would do more damage to the incumbent Conservative, support for Tim Farron’s Liberal Democrats.

The best possible outcome would be a Labour minority Government, supported by the Lib-Dems on condition that the country has another chance to consider the terms on which it will exit the EU once the negotiations under Article 50 have been completed.

The referendum result of last year resulting in a 3.9 per cent majority in favour of leaving the EU must be respected and if he becomes Prime Minister, Corbyn must see it through, but Britons deserve a second vote when the facts of exit are confirmed and not obscured by nationalist slogans and jingoistic flag waving.  

It is not without some soul-searching that I urge this outcome against a party of which I was once a supporter and a member. When I was a boy Winston Churchill was still Prime Minister. I was born on the same day that Churchill, in a speech in Switzerland, advocated a “United States of Europe” as insurance that the continent would never again be plunged into a ruinous war.

And I was in the press gallery in Westminster when Edward Heath put his career on the line in a decision over whether the UK should except the terms negotiated for EU entry. “Without a vote in favour this Government cannot reasonably continue”.

Now I look at the current front bench — Johnson, Hunt, Leadsom, Davis — a medley of mediocrity, talent-challenged timeservers led by an opportunist with an inflated ego who would rather bring the country to ruin than consider compromise.

Electing Corbyn will certainly be a leap in the dark, better that than a plunge into oblivion.   

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