May’s UK play in disarray

Developments with Theresa May and Brexit suggest a growing degree  of disarray in the UK.

RNZ: British PM Theresa May pulls vote on Brexit deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed a crucial parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal because she said it “would be rejected by a significant margin”.

She said MPs backed much of the deal she has struck with the EU but there was concern over the Northern Ireland backstop plan.

Mrs May said she believed she could still get the deal through if she addressed MPs’ concerns and that what she intended to do in the next few days.

However, Speaker John Bercow – who chairs debates in the House of Commons – called on the government to give MPs a vote on whether Tuesday’s vote should be cancelled, saying it was the “right and obvious” thing to do given how angry some MPs were about the cancellation.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the government was in “complete chaos” and urged Mrs May to stand down.

The pound fell sharply in response to the reports earlier of a likely delay.

The deputy leader of the DUP – the Northern Ireland party whose backing Theresa May needs to win key votes – Nigel Dodds, said the situation was “quite frankly a bit of a shambles” and the PM was paying the price for crossing her “red lines” when it came to Northern Ireland.

And it appears to be affecting more than the UK:  Dow slides 500 points on Brexit drama, bank selloff

Brexit chaos and sinking bank stocks are combining to deal the stock market another blow.

The Dow fell 500 points, or 1.9%, on Monday. The index tumbled below the 24,000 level. The S&P 500 retreated 1.7%, while the Nasdaq lost 1%.

US stocks hit session lows after Prime Minister Theresa May said she would delay a crucial vote on her Brexit deal. The British pound extended its losses, plunging 1.6% against the US dollar. Sterling is on track for its worst close since April 2017.

“We seem to have taken a turn for the worse because of the Brexit news,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Capital. “Any news that isn’t good is immediately treated as terrible.”

The Brexit chaos reinforces one of Wall Street’s biggest fears: slowing global growth. Germany and Japan are already in economic contraction, while China’s economy has suffered from a wave of tariffs.

 

 

May in UK: chaotic and unpopular

There are reports of chaos in the UK as Theresa May puts together her new Cabinet, and a post-election poll puts the Conservatives behind Labour.

The Telegraph:  Labour take five-point lead over Tories in latest poll

Labour have gained a five-point lead over the Conservatives following a disastrous general election night, according to the latest poll.

A Survation study puts Jeremy Corbyn’s party on 45 per cent and the Tories on just 39 per cent.

A month ago a Survation poll had the Conservatives 18% ahead on 48% to Labour’s 30%.

The dramatic reversal in the Labour leader’s fortunes comes after the most damaging 48 hours of Theresa May’s career.

A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has also revealed almost half of Britons believe Mrs May should quit as Prime Minister.

A total of 48 per cent of the 1,720 people interviewed between June 9 and 10 thought she should stand down, with 38 per cent saying she should stay.

Mrs May is still reeling from the unexpected loss of seats at an election that she called to “strengthen her hand” for Brexit talks.

The Telegraph: Theresa May begins Cabinet reshuffle as DUP deal descends into chaos

Ireland’s prime minister warns Theresa May DUP deal could put Northern Ireland peace process at risk

Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, has said he is “concerned” about Theresa May’s plan to cut a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop up a Conservative minority government.

Mr Kenny, who has served as Ireland’s Taoiseach since 2011, said he feared the deal could put the peace process in Northern Ireland at risk.

“Spoke w PM May -indicated my concern that nothing should happen to put GoodFridayAgrmt at risk & absence of nationalist voice in Westminster,” he said on Twitter.

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Tory turmoil post-election

Two of Theresa May’s top advisers have resigned after (reportedly) she was told it was them or her who had to go. One Tory MP responded “Rasputin had gone! There is a God. :)”

And there is growing opposition to the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) enabling May’s Conservatives to form a new government after an embarrassing loss of a majority in the snap election.

BBC: Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill quit No 10 after election criticism

The BBC understands the PM was warned she faced a leadership challenge unless she sacked Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill.

Labour said the pair had “taken the fall” for the prime minister.

Mr Timothy said he took responsibility for his role in the “disappointing” result and the widely-criticised manifesto package on social care.

The BBC’s assistant political editor Norman Smith said the pair’s departure bought the PM some “breathing space” following 24 hours of recriminations after the Conservatives lost their overall majority.

He said the two were so close to the PM that critical MPs believed that, unless they made way, she would not be able to change her leadership style to adopt a more “outgoing, inclusive, responsive, empathetic approach”.

Mrs May has said she intends to stay as prime minister and is seeking support for the Democratic Unionists to form a government.

But the pressure is still on May.

The Telegraph: Almost two thirds of Conservative Party members want Theresa May to resign as Prime Minister

Theresa May was facing a Conservative grassroots mutiny after leading her party to a disastrous set of election results which saw the Tories throw away their House of Commons majority and forced to form a minority Government.

A snap survey of 1,500 Tory party members undertaken in the immediate aftermath of the election revealed that 60 per cent believed Mrs May should resign and trigger a Conservative leadership contest.

The Telegraph: Backlash against Tory-DUP deal grows as petition hits 500,000 signatures

Over 500,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the Tories not to do a deal with Northern Ireland’s DUP.

The poll hosted by Change.org also calls on Theresa May to resign as Prime Minisiter following the General Election which resulted in a hung parliament.

“Theresa May should resign. This is a disgusting, desperate attempt to stay in power,” the petition reads.

It’s hard to know how much of this is anti-DUP and how much is anti-election result. Snap petitions are a common form of political posturing.

The Guardian: May ‘alone and friendless’ as key advisers resign over election result – as it happened

The election result might be sinking in, but the ramifications are a long way from being played out. Here’s a summary of today’s key developments:

  • After reports that Theresa May would face a leadership challenge as early as Monday unless she got rid of her unpopular chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, the pair resigned. Timothy said that he “took responsibility for the content of the whole manifesto”. One Tory MP reacted to the news of his departure by sending a message saying: “Rasputin had gone! There is a God. :)”
  • Notwithstanding those changes, May has faced a swathe of criticism over her campaign and speculation about her future. Stewart Jackson, who lost his seat, said that the party’s manifesto was “shockingly bad” and “electoral poison”. Former minister Ed Vaizey said that Tory MPs were actively discussing May’s position using the WhatsApp messaging system.
  • Angela Merkel said that Brexit negotiations should go ahead as planned in nine days time despite the political turmoil in the UK. “We are ready for the negotiations. We want to do it quickly, respecting the calendar,” she said.
  • After the confirmation that five senior cabinet members would stay in their posts on Friday, there was no reshuffle on Saturday – though changes could be announced tomorrow.
  • The Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson denied reports that she wanted a breakway for the party in Scotland, tweeting: “B****cks”. The report had credibility in part because of Davidson’s success in securing 13 Tory MPs in Scotland. She had already sought assurances from Theresa May that an alliance with the DUP would not mean any compromise on LGBTI rights.
  • The Conservative chief whip Gavin Williamson went to Belfast to begin talks with the DUP “on how best they can provide support” to the government. The former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson suggested that abortion time limits could be up for debate in the new parliament.

 

UK election aftermath

The UK election is over, resulting in a hung Parliament, about the worst thing that could have happened with Brexit to deal with shortly.

But despite her quest for more power and dumping a snap election on Labour backfiring Theresa May has not mucked around.

The biggest losers, apart from May’s credibility, were UKIP, who lost 108% of the vote. They dropped to just 1.8% and lost their only seat.

Labour increased their share of the vote by 5.5% to 42.4%, while the Conservatives increased their’s by less, 5.5%, but still got the most at 42.4%.

BBC:  May to form ‘government of certainty’ with DUP backing

Theresa May has said she will put together a government with the support of the Democratic Unionists to guide the UK through crucial Brexit talks.

Speaking after visiting Buckingham Palace, she said only her party had the “legitimacy” to govern, despite falling eight seats short of a majority.

In a short statement outside Downing Street after an audience with the Queen, Mrs May said she would join with her DUP “friends” to “get to work” on Brexit.

Referring to the “strong relationship” she had with the DUP but giving little detail of how their arrangement might work, she said she intended to form a government which could “provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country”.

“Our two parties have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years,” she said.

“And this gives me the confidence to believe that we will be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.”

It is thought Mrs May will seek some kind of informal arrangement with the DUP that could see it “lend” its support to the Tories on a vote-by-vote basis, known as “confidence and supply”.

Later, she said she “obviously wanted a different result” and was “sorry” for colleagues who lost their seats.

“I’m sorry for all those candidates… who weren’t successful, and also particularly sorry for MPs and ministers who’d contributed so much to our country, and who lost their seats and didn’t deserve to lose their seats.

“As I reflect on the results, I will reflect on what I need to do in the future to take the party forward.”

So for now at least all the speculation and demands that she step down as Conservative leader and Prime Minister were meaningless.

But Labour said they were the “real winners”.

They gained a lot of votes (9.5% up to 40.0%) and some seats (up 29 to 261) but still lost the election. They still have Jeremy Corbyn as leader, hailed as an election hero and it will be difficult to budge him now, but still out of government possibly for the next five years.

BBC: Jeremy Corbyn says May ‘underestimated’ voters

Jeremy Corbyn has said Theresa May “underestimated” voters and the Labour Party after the Tories failed to win an overall majority in the election.

He said people had voted “for hope” after his party secured 261 seats in Parliament.

The Labour leader called on Mrs May to resign after the Conservatives were left eight seats short of a majority.

“Your vote for us was a vote for change, a vote for our country and a vote for hope,” he said.

“But she underestimated the Labour Party, and more importantly, she underestimated you.”

He went on to say Theresa May called the general election “in her party’s interests, not in the interests of the country” and thought she could “take your vote for granted”.

To an extent Corbyn is correct, May made a silly decision to call a snap election and campaigned terribly, but Corbyn and Labour are still in opposition for now at least.

Not enough of “the people” chose to ditch May and the Conservatives.

The Lib Dems said Mrs May should be “ashamed” of carrying on.

BBC:  Lib Dem leader Tim Farron says May should go

Theresa May must resign and Brexit negotiations should be put on hold, the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has said.

He said talks about leaving the EU should be delayed until the new government sets out its plans to the public.

And he insisted there would be no deal to prop up a Tory government.

“Like David Cameron before her, our Conservative prime minister rolled the dice with the future of our country out of sheer arrogance and vanity,” he said.

“It is simply inconceivable that the prime minister can begin the Brexit negotiations in just two weeks’ time.

“She should consider her future – and then, for once, she should consider the future of our country.”

But it was a mixed election for the Liberal Democrats. They gained 4 seats (now 12) but lost some MPs and votes, dropping half a percent to 7.4%.

Mr Farron’s comments came after a night which saw the former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg lose his seat to the Labour Party in Sheffield Hallam, becoming the first major figure to fall in the 2017 election.

But former ministers Vince Cable and Jo Swinson both won back their seats after losing them in 2015.

And Mr Farron kept his seat of Westmorland and Lonsdale, although his majority fell from 8,949 to just 777.

The big question now: Who are the Democratic Union Party?

They won 10 seats, up 2, and 292,316 votes, 0.9% of the total.

Theresa May has said she will form a government with the support of the DUP, though it is not clear what kind of arrangement this will be.

Despite party leader Arlene Foster warning it would be difficult for the prime minister to stay in No 10, discussions are certainly going on behind the scenes.

The party has moved on to the political centre stage but most people will be in the dark about what it stands for.

The DUP website crashed on Friday morning after a surge of interest, and DUP was also one of the most searched terms on Google.

Basically, they are pro-union (not Europe but UK), pro-Brexit and socially conservative.

The party, which returned 10 MPs to Westminster, has garnered a bit of a reputation for its strong and controversial views.

It opposes same-sex marriage and is anti-abortion – abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland, except in specific medical cases.

Mervyn Storey, the party’s former education spokesman, once called for creationism – the belief that human life did not evolve over millions of years but was created by God – to be taught alongside evolution in science classes.

In December, the DUP’s Trevor Clarke was criticised by Sir Elton John after the politician admitted he did not know heterosexual people could contract HIV until a charity explained the facts to him.

Fairly conservative then, on social issues at least.

Then there’s the party’s historical links to loyalist paramilitaries.

During this general election campaign, the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly received the endorsement of the three biggest loyalist paramilitary organisations.

Although the DUP said it did not accept their support, in her acceptance speech, Mrs Little-Pengelly thanked those who came out to vote for her, singling out several loyalist working class areas in Belfast.

The DUP was a wholehearted supporter of Brexit and got heavily involved in the Leave campaign.

After Brexit, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland becomes an EU frontier and the DUP is not in favour of a so-called hard border. This means no checkpoints or intrusive enforcement.

So no hard border but in the round, the party’s vision of Brexit is a fairly hard one – it was the most Eurosceptic party in the UK before the ascent of UKIP.

The party also wants to leave the EU customs union – their manifesto says there should be “progress on new free trade deals with the rest of the world” – and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, ensuring that in future British law is supreme.

One red line is the idea of Northern Ireland being granted some sort of “special status” when Brexit comes to pass – the DUP will not stand for any arrangement that physically sets the region apart from anywhere else in the UK.

Its 2017 manifesto set out its position on Brexit and other issues, including:

  • Further increases to the personal tax allowance – similar to Conservative Party policy
  • Continued rises in the national living wage – similar
  • Renew Trident – similar
  • Revisit terrorism laws – similar
  • Abolish air passenger duty – different from the Conservatives
  • Cut VAT for tourism businesses – different
  • Call for “triple lock” on pensions – different

Its key slogan during the campaign turned out to be rather prescient: “A vote for the DUP team is a vote to send ‘Team Northern Ireland’ to Westminster. It is a team that has real influence”.

It looks like DUP may have real influence now.