The failed leaderships of Cameron & May
Theresa May has left no room for doubt about the way she intends to demonstrate the strength of her leadership: Hard Brexit.
This flavour of Brexit will see the United Kingdom sail out of any and every deal that carries even the slightest scent of Europe, regardless of the cost to the country’s economy, it’s people and even itself.
That May has boldly stuck to this plan since the first mutterings of “Brexit means Brexit”, rang from Number 10, will be seen as a sign of strength to the hardcore minority of Leavers who agree with her.
Unfortunately, it is a deception of immense proportions.
For the majority of the population that stands outside the Leave celebrants, all that can be seen is a weak leader hunkered down and afraid to acknowledge the reality of the crisis that’s about to befall the country. As May dons her tin hat and barks orders to the nation, demanding that it unite, it is becoming clearer that her delusions of strength have been forged in the crucible of her predecessor’s failure.
Combine the immense effects that any form of Brexit will have on the UK with the wafer thin majority that prevailed in the advisory referendum and you get a recipe that requires a certain type of leadership for it to work.
The referendum result demanded a leadership that acknowledged it and committed to finding the options that are open to the country. It demanded a leadership that pointed out Cameron’s lies about the ballot’s binding nature and then called for calm and a studied appreciation of the immensity of the decision that lay before the nation.
Cruelly, the UK got a leadership that listens only to internal party politics. One that has brought Cameron’s string of leadership failures together to create May’s ultimate Brexit destruction.
Let’s just revisit the mistakes Cameron made…
After calling the referendum and writing it into law, he then proceeded to lie about its advisory nature. Legally, this referendum means nothing but by giving in to UKIP demands, he reshaped the ballot as being in or out, all or nothing and underwrote this by fallaciously claiming that he would trigger Article 50 on the morning after a Leave vote.
That he chose to resign instead, only serves to highlight Cameron’s inability to lead.
Having called the referendum and lied about its nature, Cameron then committed what was arguably his greatest error. He comprehensively failed to prepare for the test.
In the manner of a schoolboy who did well in his mock exams and expected the glory to last through to the real thing, Cameron treated the EU referendum as though it was a rerun of the Scottish independence vote.
The fact that Scotland’s 55/45 result was closer than predicted failed to alert Cameron to the dangers that lay ahead. With the EU being the cause celebre for most of the tabloid media and UKIP’s sole aim in life, only the most short-sighted could have failed to see that the fight was always going to be tough and dirty.
Devastatingly, Cameron laid none of the necessary groundwork for what will, by virtue of having lost, become the defining event of his tenure.
He flapped at a renegotiation with the Union and then did little to highlight either the benefits it brings to the UK or the support it provides for the country’s standing in the world.
Instead, Cameron and Osborne, along with the weak leadership across the aisle, fell back on economic scare stories that sadly could never capture the imagination in the same way as myths about immigration and NHS windfalls.
Remain lost. Cameron resigned.
Theresa May has picked up the baton but how long she can carry it for remains to be seen.
She is a leader with as many shortcomings as Cameron, all of which start in exactly the same place -a fear of UKIP and the Tory right. Her response has come not from a place of wisdom but from an aggressive instinct to run in the opposite direction, only this is not away from Brexit but towards it.
In search of leadership
A strong leader, a wise leader, would have appreciated the narrowness of the winning margin. They would have felt the shock and fear that immediately gripped those who voted Remain and many who voted Leave. Most importantly, they would have understood that the referendum, after it had been fought on lies and emotion rather than evidence and factual information, gave only a snapshot of opinion and would have called for time and reflection.
An inspirational leader, a successful leader, a leader with the national interest at heart would have led future debate. They would now be ensuring that all options for Brexit, including none at all, would be examined by an independent referendum commission before being put to the people in a final binding, mandatory referendum.
That leader, the one the Tory Party has failed to deliver twice, would by now have faced down the right-wing press and ensured the nation was listening to and uniting behind their voice as the one of balance and authority.
That leader would now be demonstrating that their sole desire is to ensure the British people make an informed decision and that they will carry out the nation’s wishes once finally and rationally expressed.
That leader would not now be dividing the country further by jeopardising peace in Northern Ireland, encouraging independence in Scotland, displaying indifference to increasing hate crime and demanding more austerity to pay for an opinion that the British held for one day in June 2016.
The UK doesn’t have that leader. It hasn’t had such a leader at any point this century and looking at the political landscape, there’s no one that looks like they have the qualities to be that leader today.