May cannot bridge divisions in British society

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/9 23:28:39

The latest UK election outcome signals that the country, which not many decades ago was called an empire on which the sun never sets, is thrown into unprecedented uncertainty. With the Conservatives led by Prime Minister Theresa May failing to secure a parliamentary majority, the country now looks set for a hung parliament. 

A hung parliament means the ruling Conservative party does not have enough lawmakers to exercise outright control and carry decisions through. The Tories will probably have to rely on support from other parties to cling to power. That means the road ahead will be muddy with all the tedious personnel and policy coordination and negotiations expected. There may even be a possibility of calling for another general election if negotiations fail to deliver a result. Many internal and foreign policy issues that need to be urgently addressed including the upcoming Brexit negotiations may get stalled. The fundamental direction of Brexit may also become unclear. 

May called a snap election, hoping to win her a mandate to see the UK through Brexit talks and realize her version of a hard Brexit. She wants to turn herself and her government into an inspiring, decisive and effective leader who can carry things through. So far, May has said she will form a Conservative government backed by Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party. But whether both parties could reach a consensus for cooperation is still uncertain.       

However, Friday's result not only deals a crushing blow to her Brexit plan, but also raises questions about whether she could continue to stay in No.10 Downing Street. Her Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn has already urged her to step down. 

So what went wrong with May? Is it because the Tories' internal and foreign policies failed to win public support or a series of recent terrorist attacks in Britain created worries among the public about its anti-terrorist measures? These are all superficial symptoms.   

May and her Conservative party seek to boost their power and influence through a Brexit deal and enhance Britain's unity, stability and gain public support. But she and her party have underestimated the challenges facing the country and misjudged the mood of the public. 

Brexit is in itself not a clear choice but instead overturns Britain's political and economic development plan. The June 2016 referendum offered May a chance to assume power but it does not mean British people have gained a clear understanding of which direction the country should head for. The result is just the opposite. On a lighter note, it seems that Britain wants to try its luck in finding an exit to a labyrinth. On a serious note, British people are making a bet on Brexit as they are struggling to find a sense of belonging amid extreme anxiety and bewilderment about the prospect of European integration.  

Britain needs a strong and powerful government to guide the country forward. But today's Britain is not the same as the one in Winston Churchill's era. Even if Margaret Thatcher was in power, she might not have been tougher than May. Former Conservative party leader David Cameron had sought to boost his popularity through the Brexit referendum, but he not only lost the gamble but also deepened the divide that risks splitting the country. In the current scenario, May and her new government are doomed to be weak. She could not bridge the divide in the public opinion to restore a powerful ruling party.  

Britain has been reduced into a second-tier nation after World War II and the vigorous rise of emerging countries in recent years has further narrowed Britain's influence and position in the world. Britain has plunged into a lost era where a Brexit widens the divide in public opinion and shakes the foundation on which the British society has reached a consensus. Increasingly more people began to realize that the problems confronting Britain cannot be solved even if they have decided on whether to stay in the EU or not.      

Most Western media outlets are shocked by the surprise election result. They attach great value to Britain and the way they see the election reveals that they are deeply disturbed by the future situation in Europe and the changing pattern in globalization. The anxiety and bewilderment felt by the British to a large extent reflects that the entire Western world is losing direction.          

In British author Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 classic "The Lost World," the British expedition team doesn't get lost in the wild. But today, in the real world, British, "descendants of Sherlock Holmes," are somehow lost.   

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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