By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.
AFTER CAMERON’S SWIFT self-defenestration from the job of Prime Minister and politics in general, Theresa May found herself Britain’s new leader. A remainer, and therefore typical of the majority of Conservative MPs, she has had to work out how to handle the referendum result. Should she soft soap the electorate into accepting a pretend exit from the European Union by means of delay and prevarication? Or should she bury her Europhile tendencies and do her best to deliver full exit as the British people asked?
For months it seemed unclear what her strategy was. Brexit means Brexit, she said at one stage. What we want is a red, white and blue Brexit, she said at another, sending the UK-loathing Europhiles into spasms of that hysteria they so routinely enjoy. Farage and other Ukip members expressed serious doubts about her intentions, promising to hold her leopard-pattern, kitten-heeled feet to the metaphorical fire. The media (“the world’s most dishonest human beings”, according to Trump) have joyously reported as ineluctable certainty every prediction by EU members that the UK will end up a pile of jelly after Brexit, and painted over the bright areas of good news with a dark wash of gloom.
With her speech at Lancaster House she appears to have dispelled some of the fog surrounding the government’s position. Brexit means Brexit:
We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.
And that is why we seek a new and equal partnership – between an independent, self-governing, Global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU.
Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out. We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave.
No, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. And my job is to get the right deal for Britain as we do.
AT THE MOMENT that looks clear enough to me, although since this is a politician talking I’ll reserve a tiny percentage of credence till it has happened.
There was some unwelcome retro wet Tory policy in there, with talk about an industrial strategy, making workers’ voices “heard by the boards of publicly-listed companies”, and waffle about making Britain a fairer place. I suppose this is partly a sop to the state-loving, bleeding hearts inside her own party as well as those outside — a continuation of the detoxifying of the “nasty” Tory brand begun years ago; and partly because it is the kind of thing May personally believes in.
Whatever those beliefs she now seems committed to the job in hand. And there is one reason I think we should take into account that she will see it through. That reason is plain ambition.
Politicians at the top of the ladder these days are obsessed with their “legacy”. More than ever they want to make a mark on the world, despite the repeated evidence of Powell’s dictum that all political lives end in failure. May has had the luck to land the PM job, but without the (albeit unnecessary) mandate of a general election. I’m assuming she would like another term as Prime Minister in 2020, a term which she can justifiably say was won by the popular vote. The only way she can guarantee that is to deliver exactly what the people voted for in the referendum, ie, a proper exit from the EU. After a second term – provided nothing goes drastically wrong (events, dear girl, events) she can step down as PM and bask in the glory of her legacy.
It may be one of those rare times when personal ambition and the desire of the electorate coincide to the benefit of both. We can but hope.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.