Opinion Column

The Duel

British voters lash out at May’s government for the few

By Garth Mullins, The Duel

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a statement outside 10 Downing St. in central London on June 9, 2017. (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a statement outside 10 Downing St. in central London on June 9, 2017. (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)


This week's question: Should U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May feel sorry for calling a snap election?

Last week, British voters punished Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May with a minority government. The slogan “Let June be the end of May” caught fire during the snap election campaign. This second coming of Margaret Thatcher was overconfident she’d increase her majority.

Sound familiar, B.C.?

Both Christy Clark and May campaigned on “strength and stability.” Both were handed weak, unstable minority governments by voters tired of austerity, corruption and growing inequality. Now, both are one non-confidence vote away from the opposition benches.

During the U.K. campaign, there were terrorist attacks in London and Manchester. In response, May threatened to “rip up human rights laws” that stood in her way. But a former counter-terrorism chief said May’s “endless cuts” to police budgets and essential services left the country vulnerable.

Read Brent Stafford's column here.

During the campaign, May started picking at scabs from the Northern Ireland conflict. The fragile peace is only two decades old. I still remember hearing the 1996 explosion of a Provisional IRA bomb on a bus near my London flat.

May called Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn a “terrorist sympathizer.” But that smear has turned out to be truer of her.

May is trying to form an alliance with the Northern Irish DUP a pro-British occupation party with links to paramilitaries. By partnering with it, May picks a side in that dormant dispute and gambles with the Good Friday Agreement, which secured peace in Northern Ireland and commits the British government to “rigorous impartiality.”

Conservatives always try to stampede voters after terrorist attacks. But now May is counting on a rabidly anti-gay, terrorist-backed party to prop up her government.

Meanwhile, Corbyn campaigned “for the many, not the few.” He promised free child care; public ownership of water, rail, post and power; no more tuition fees; public housing; higher taxes on corporations and the very wealthy; welfare increases and more. Corbyn faced down the disdain of the U.K. media and an attempted coup from the Labour party Blairite establishment.

A generation of voters born after the Cold War are no longer cowed by red scare rhetoric. They’ve grown up in the world redefined by the World Trade Center attacks. All the tough talk and cutbacks have only brought a Big Brother state and an uncaring society. People are hungry for alternatives and no longer fear socialism.

I’m glad May called an election and Clark too. It gave us a chance to see their true selves revealed and vote accordingly.

Garth Mullins is a broadcaster, activist, writer, musician and trade unionist. He’s at www.garthmullins.com or @garthmullins.