The strong and stable mantra that was born at Easter has died a painful death, and it won’t be resurrected soon…
Theresa May’s new year message is somewhat reminiscent of her first speech outside Downing Street shortly after becoming Prime Minister, where she called for the protection of the Union and a commitment to social justice. That was almost 18 months ago, but I doubt many would have predicted the current situation across the political landscape. Corbyn is the darling of the nation, with millions of adoring fans up and down the country. His comforting and social justice perspective is in stark contrast to what the Conservatives embody, and very different from many previous Labour leaders. Considering the predicament Corbyn found himself in a year ago when he was struggling to gain the respect of many Labour MPs, few would have envisaged the remarkable turn around we have subsequently witnessed. And now the dust has settled after the shock result of the summer election and the turbulence that ensued, May looks to set out her hopes and dreams for 2018 in her new year address to the nation.
May has urged the UK to have pride in Brexit, which is a statement with little smoke let alone fire, and is nearly as vague as ‘Brexit means Brexit’. No actual policy, no clear aims or recommendations and a lack of direction for the negotiation process. Pride, like hope, is almost like a last resort, where there is nothing else you have to offer and see no other effective route to success. That says a lot about the final 6 months of the year this government has experienced, and it has been an experience that has not been even remotely enjoyable.
From the U-Turns on social care and Universal Credit, the strong and stable mantra that was born just after Easter when the election was called has died a long and painful death, and it doesn’t look like it will be resurrected any time soon. It is difficult to foresee the current government offering anything of significance in 2018, and I am almost certain that it wont even come up with the rhetoric to successfully instil the last resorts of hope and pride into their own government.
Previous developments in the Brexit negotiations offer neither hope nor pride in what the final deal will look like. With a total lack of preparation, our leaders have looked completely inept in comparison to the thorough planning of EU officials. Whilst I accept we should partake in the game of political poker and keep our cards close to our chest, some clear direction needs to be provided if we are to have more confidence in the year ahead. Even Davis himself has admitted he has no time for impact assessments in various different economic sectors and social services, which suggests he has little consideration for the negative and drastic impacts Britain’s withdrawal from the EU could have.
When David Cameron committed to calling an In/Out Referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, few would have imagined the actual result, the Fall Out that has ensued and the handling of the Brexit process. I want to see a government committed to a Brexit that works for the millions of working class people who voted to Leave the EU who felt forgotten and ignored by the elite establishment in this country. However, recent events suggest we risk becoming a tax haven for the wealthy, with even more uncertainty for public services such as the NHS.
In 2018, we also witness the 70th birthday of the NHS, something May was quick to recognise in her new year message. Under constant scrutiny about her party’s management and funding of the treasured institution, May needs to demonstrate the Tories have the best interests of the NHS at heart. However, Jeremy Hunt’s pursuit of privatisation and the continued involvement of Virgin in our National Health Service, highlights the difficulties that this government have forced upon the NHS. Increased waiting times, a dire shortage of nurses and plummeting public opinion in the NHS can all be attributed to Hunt’s and May’s management of the institution. Many have now forgotten the days when there was no affordable healthcare, where millions of people died because they simply did not have the economic means to access doctors and medicine. We now live in times of increasing inequality and we should be fighting to protect all of our public services for those who so desperately require them.
The prospect of a ‘fair chance for everyone’ has been a common rhetoric purported by the Prime Minister. I am reluctant to call it a policy or ambition because of the actions taken that appear counter-productive to her statements, no matter how many times she may repeat them. The re-introduction of grammar schools and the continuation of austerity does not represent a desire to transform the socio-economic structure of this country. In reality, May’s actions have been representative of someone who wishes to reinforce inequality both economically and socially, as shown by the ‘boy and girl jobs’ in her own household. I worry that the Prime Minister fails to acknowledge the different society we now inhabit, with more single parents, more working mothers and the increase in same-sex parents and households.
Theresa May faces a difficult 2018, and that is probably the understatement of the year. Brexit, austerity, the Union of the United Kingdom and party in-fighting are among many battles she is involved in on many fronts. Despite all this, the interests of the country are set to be secondary once again to May’s attempt to regain the tight grip on power she possessed before calling an early election.
As for the opposition, Corbyn is still as popular as he was in the aftermath of the election and the future does look more rosy for Labour due to their significant support amongst young people. However, they are not without their difficulties. Questions remain over what their Brexit policy actually is, as well as the possibility of deselection and reshuffles as Momentum continue to exert greater influence over the Party.
It is set to be another uncertain and turbulent year in politics and society overall. With rumours of other ministers beginning to make a push for the premiership, May faces challenges both from within her tent and outside it. The Prime Minister must now decide whether she wants certain individuals outside the tent pissing in or inside the tent pissing out. Neither provides the strong and stable solution she desires.