domingo, 11 de junho de 2017

Theresa May fought a deplorable election campaign which has left her without authority or credibility / Who’s afraid of Jeremy Corbyn?

Observer editorial
Theresa May fought a deplorable election campaign which has left her without authority or credibility

Saturday 10 June 2017 22.00 BST

How did it come to this? How could a politician hailed for her courage and tactical acumen a year ago be spending this weekend holed up in Downing Street, friendless and widely ridiculed, a prisoner of her furious party and of events that have spun out of her control? How could someone who just days ago was confidently preparing to fulfil her ambition to guide Britain into its new role abroad and refashion its institutions at home be now preparing for the humiliation of resignation from her post that must surely happen soon? How could a prime minister who seemed imperious just weeks ago when she set out to destroy Corbyn’s Labour be laid so low, the power draining from her as her backbenchers and senior cabinet ministers make demands she is too weak to resist? Whatever happened to “strong and stable”, parroted to the point of banality by May and her senior colleagues throughout the campaign. Whatever the position of Theresa May three days after the election, it is not strong and it is not stable.

The prime minister presided over one of the worst election campaigns in history. She squandered a 20-point poll lead and her parliamentary majority. The contrast between the prime minister of last July and the prime minister we saw on Friday could not have been starker. Then, she stood outside Downing Street claiming to be a leader attuned to the people, who understood the European referendum vote as a demand for a different sort of politics. The day after the election, she was the leader we have come to know in recent weeks: inflexible and wooden, unable to acknowledge her defeat, she came across as deaf to the message that the nation had just delivered.

May called this election as a vote of confidence in her vision. She expected to win a mandate for her hardline approach to Brexit and her programme of austerity easily. Instead, she lost seats. She has no mandate for either. The result should put paid to her ruinous claim that no deal with Europe would be better than a bad deal. It should sound the death knell for the public spending cuts she championed, despite the pain it has inflicted on countless lives.

Despite a campaign pitch based on her leadership qualities, May avoided media appearances, debates and contact with the public wherever she could. Her message was framed not around a positive vision, but around vicious personal attacks on Jeremy Corbyn. She sought a mandate for her Brexit strategy without providing any elucidation of what it would be.

Her campaign was memorable for its strategic errors on domestic policy and she offered no answers to the big questions facing Britain, including the plight of a younger generation locked out of the proceeds of prosperity. Despite enacting changes to the tax and benefit system that leave low-income families thousands of pounds a year worse off, she claimed to be fighting their corner. Instead of bringing the country together after the Brexit vote, she launched an attack on “citizens of nowhere”. There were enough who saw her for what she is: disingenuous, dogmatic, unstrategic.

May lost her election gamble, but Jeremy Corbyn unexpectedly played a critical role in denying her an outright victory. His campaign was widely acknowledged as exceeding expectations in the run-up to the election, but the result shows how successful it was. He confounded his critics to secure the largest increase in the party’s vote share since the second world war to take Labour to 40%.

Corbyn has done what many of his critics thought would be impossible. He built on the enthusiasm inspired by his leadership election to attract support from young voters far beyond his membership base, building them into an electoral coalition with metropolitan voters and Labour’s core working-class vote. His was a strategic campaign that blended a popular policy platform with a pragmatic position on Brexit that enabled him to keep Leave-supporting voters within the Labour fold. And he did this in the face of an overwhelmingly hostile media climate and in spite of being vastly outspent by the Conservatives. The rightwing press were skilfully outmanoeuvred by Labour’s digital activists. Their increasingly hyperbolic front pages went unseen by the under-30s and, counterintuitively, to those who did see them, they helped create support for an besieged underdog. The Mail, for the first time in a while, seemed out of touch with a seismic movement in politics. After a year of bilious cant against Remainers and Corbyn, it was left firing analogue bullets in a digital age.

It may be short of a win, but it remains a sensational result for Labour and cements Corbyn’s position as leader of his party. He has led Labour to a position where, if there were another general election later in the year, victory looks far from impossible. He has responded to the growing crisis that has beset our political institutions since the 2008 financial crisis in a bold and imaginative way, engaging a new generation that had found little inspiration in the existing political establishment. He has harnessed the anger of the dispossessed as well as the energy and optimism of the young. He successfully punctured some of the cynicism that has descended over British politics.

But Thursday’s result leaves the most important question unanswered. Who now has the authority to govern Britain? We stand on the brink of the most important international negotiation since the Second World War, led by a prime minister lacking in authority and political capital. May’s decision to trigger article 50, and then call an election, was catastrophic. It is the second time in two years a Conservative prime minister has risked Britain’s national interest for personal political advantage and party management.

The two-year clock on a transitional deal continues to tick. But our politics looks as though it will be gripped by paralysis in the weeks to come. There now exists a majority of MPs in parliament in favour of a softer approach to Brexit. But the erosion of her majority means May will undoubtedly be held hostage by her party’s Eurosceptic right. It is impossible to see how this can resolve itself.

This election result also adds instability to the union. The SNP’s significant losses mean the Scottish independence question is settled for now. But things look less assured in Northern Ireland, where the collapse of power sharing has created a fraught situation.

This election saw the wipe out of the moderate unionist and nationalist parties. Sinn Fein’s absence means only the hardline unionist DUP will be represented in Westminster, leaving nationalist voters in the province with no voice. As Jonathan Powell writes on these pages, any deal May strikes with the DUP will overturn the convention that the British government is neutral between unionists and nationalists. How could May claim neutrality if her government is propped up by the DUP’s 10 MPs? In reaching out to them, May is jeopardising the peace brought about by the Good Friday agreement.

One of May’s most prominent attacks on Labour was that a vote for Corbyn was a vote for a coalition of chaos. There is a terrible irony in the fact it is now May who will be forced to rely on an agreement with the DUP in order to govern. Members of a party rooted in conservative Christianity, the DUP’s MPs are some of the most reactionary, socially illiberal voices in parliament. Anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion, the party counts creationists and climate change deniers within its ranks. Any alliance with the DUP would be at odds with efforts by Conservatives to shed their image as the nasty party.

May finds herself in an impossible position. She must respond to the electorate’s rejection of austerity and hard Brexit. There are moderates in her party who will demand it of her. But those to the right of her will try to prevent her from doing so. This election result calls for a far more open style of governing. There is a need to build a coalition in the Commons for a Brexit deal that puts Britain’s economic prosperity first: the obvious arrangement would be continued membership of the single market. Yvette Cooper’s proposal for Brexit talks to be led by a cross-party commission with the Brexit secretary at the helm deserves consideration.

Discredited, humiliated, diminished: May has lost credibility and leverage in her party, her country and across Europe. Where there was respect, there is ridicule; where there was strength, there is weakness; where there was self-assurance, there is doubt. She looks too weak to deliver her manifesto, too vulnerable to tackle dissent and too enfeebled to lead Britain. It is impossible to see her having the influence, authority or credibility to serve her country.

Who’s afraid of Jeremy Corbyn?

Me, that’s who. And all Americans who fear for the future of the West.

By           JAMES P. RUBIN               6/10/17, 9:49 AM CET Updated 6/10/17, 3:25 PM CET

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May barely survived Thursday’s election. The political damage is such that fewer and fewer observers believe she will be able to serve out her full term. Politically, it looks like Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was the big winner, as his party surprised the pollsters and pundits (again) by gaining some 30 seats in parliament rather than losing that many or more, as was expected when the election campaign began.

With May now leading a less than stable minority government, and Corbyn energized and lionized by his unexpected success across the country, it is time to take seriously the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn—an old-school socialist who opposes NATO’s very existence as a provocation to Russia and regards U.S. foreign policy as a tool of corporate America—becoming prime minister of the UK. It could happen if May is unable to keep things together over the coming months—which also means examining the dynamic of a Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn duo taking over that most celebrated of international pairings, the U.S. UK “special relationship.”

One sure consequence of a Prime Minister Corbyn is that the White House would have to consider France, not the UK, as the strongest and most reliable U.S. ally in a crisis. Not only did the French election bring the West a leader who espouses values like tolerance, integration and the rule of law, but France’s President Emmanuel Macron is clear-eyed enough to recognize the danger Russia’s territorial aggression, relentless hacking and election sabotage pose to Europe and the world.

By contrast, Corbyn has argued that the West is to blame for Russia’s behavior. According to Corbyn, it was NATO’s decision not to disband after the fall of communism in 1989 and then its eastward expansion that provoked the Kremlin. And therefore, the invasion of Crimea was an understandable Russian response to these and other mistakes made by NATO.

Unfortunately, then for Trump, a long-time anglophile who has talked with such delight about plans for a presidential sleep-over at Buckingham Palace later this year, U.S. security interests will require Washington to shun the Corbyn-led British in a crisis and adopt a new policy of “France first.” Freedom fries, anyone?

Meanwhile, one can only imagine what the Kremlin would think about a Prime Minister Corbyn. The damage already done to NATO’s credibility and deterrence by Trump’s reluctance to reaffirm the core collective security commitment in the NATO Treaty, Article V, is bad enough. But the damage to NATO’s solidarity and cohesion posed by Corbyn leading Britain is beyond Moscow’s imaginings. Russia has been working to drive wedges between key members of the trans-Atlantic alliance since the height of the Cold War.

In Corbyn, Russia would have the ultimate “useful idiot” – a leader of a top NATO government who genuinely believes the alliance should not exist, who blames NATO for tensions with Russia, and who has said he would never follow NATO’s strategy of nuclear deterrence. Kremlin operatives would probably feel like they hit the “power ball” jackpot in a geopolitical lottery.

Labour’s more sensible officials have done their best to moderate or mask Corbyn’s underlying attitudes in order to make him more electable. The Labour manifesto on international affairs, for example, is vague in the extreme, consisting mostly of a series of security questions a Labour government would address. But Corbyn has been a public opponent of British and American foreign policy for some 25 years, and so his record and his views are impossible to hide.

Americans have almost no experience with political leaders from the far left, like Corbyn, who have made a career of attacking U.S. foreign policies time and again. The best analogy for Corbyn would be to those U.S. opponents of the Vietnam War who traveled to Hanoi to denounce their own country. In such a setting, Corbyn would probably be comfortable manning the proverbial anti-aircraft gun. Over the years, whether talking about Hamas, Hezbollah, North Korean dictators, or virulent anti-Semitic opponents of Israel, he has always found a way to be supportive of America’s enemies and critical of American policies.

Having debated Corbyn on and off over the last 20 years, I have no doubt that his condemnation of U.S. policy is heartfelt. The problem is that somehow for Corbyn, America is almost always in the wrong for the wrong reasons. Whether it was the first Gulf war, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan or Iraq, Corbyn not only questioned the effectiveness of U.S. policies—which was perfectly legitimate and unfortunately often accurate—but he also ascribed malign intent to them. Whether it was profit, or imperialist greed, for Corbyn, America’s motives were always suspect. To debate Corbyn was to constantly fend off labels like “corporate villain” or “war criminal.” It was rarely a respectful difference of opinion about how best to achieve shared objectives in a complicated world.

In all probability, there will never be a Corbyn government; more likely, the Tories will muddle along. But as an American living here, it is troubling to think how close he came.

James P. Rubin is a former assistant secretary of state in the Bill Clinton adminis

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