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Priti Patel stays in minority Theresa May govt; Corbyn sees new poll soon

Sunday morning television saw leading lights across the political spectrum expound on the difficult political situation in the country, with former chancellor and Tory leader George Osborne calling May a “dead woman walking”.

world Updated: Jun 11, 2017 22:05 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
UK Politics,Theresa May,Jeremy Corbyn
Priti Patel arrives at Downing Street in London on Sunday.(Reuters)

Priti Patel, the only Indian-origin cabinet minister in the Theresa May government, was on Sunday retained in her role as international development secretary in the minority government as last Thursday’s elections continued to create waves in Brexit-bound Britain.

Patel, who won from Witham with more votes than in the 2015 election, has been a leading figure in the Brexit camp, controversially promising relaxing of immigration controls for India and Commonwealth countries after leaving the European Union.

May made the new appointments in the context of continuing reverberations inside and outside her party over the election outcome that saw her party losing majority, forcing her to look for support from the Democratic Unionist Party based in Northern Ireland.

May was called a “dead woman walking” as she continued toface anger from inside and outside her Conservative Party, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn saw another election coming soon to sort out the political situation in Brexit-bound Britain.

Sunday morning television saw leading lights across the political spectrum expound on the difficult political situation in the country, with former chancellor and Tory leader George Osborne calling May a “dead woman walking.”

There was much speculation about a leadership challenge to May from foreign secretary Boris Johnson, but he dismissed it as “tripe”. That, however, did not stop Westminster chatter about how long May will continue as the party leader and prime minister, with some giving her time until the annual party conference in September.

Now a newspaper editor, Osborne said: “She is a dead woman walking and the only question is how long she remains on death row…(David Cameron) and I spent years getting back to office, winning in seats like Bath and Brighton and Oxford and I am angry when we go backwards and I am not afraid to say that.”

Corbyn said it was “quite possible” that there will be another election this year or early next year: “We cannot continue like this”, he said, while his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said another election was “inevitable.”

There were already signs of problems for the Conservatives in reaching an agreement with Democratic Unionist Party to keep the minority government of May in power. There were differing versions on the ongoing talks in Belfast from 10 Downing Street and the DUP office.

A key issue is rooted in the history of trouble-torn Northern Ireland politics: the British government in London has been neutral in the conflict between the nationalists and unionists there.

DUP is one of the unionist parties, and the Conservative Party joining hands with it to remain in power in London disturbs the historic neutrality of London, most evident in the signing of the Good Friday agreement of 1998, which ushered in a period of peace.

“If Mrs May depends on the DUP – Ian Paisley’s party, not the old Official Unionists, who used in the past to work with the Tories – to form a government, it will be impossible for it to be even-handed,” Jonathan Powell, chief negotiator of the Good Friday agreement, wrote in The Observer.

“The other parties in Northern Ireland will know that the unionists can pull the plug at any stage and hold the government hostage,” he added.

The uneasiness within Tory ranks over the yet-to-be-reached ‘deal’ with DUP was evident when defence secretary was at pains to explain on live television that their support would be relied upon only on major issued such as defence and economy; the Conservative Party did not agree with DUP’s stand on issues such as gay marriage, climate change and Brexit, he added.

May continued to be the target of attacks not only of pro-Labour newspapers but also of those who supported her and her party during the election campaign. Sunday headlines were no different from the trenchant ones a day after the election results were declared.

The Observer said in an editorial: “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”, it added.

A cabinet meeting of the minority government is expected to be held on Monday. After retaining five incumbents in major cabinet level positions on Friday, May is likely to make further appointments in her new government early next week.

First Published: Jun 11, 2017 15:57 IST