The fog of political battle is still dense over Britain. But just as sometimes I can see the hills of Wales to the East of me rising above the Irish Sea so the outlines of what has happened in Britain are now gradually becoming clear. The result of the election, due in equal measure to the unexpected effectiveness of Jeremy Corbyn, and a miserably mishandled campaign, has changed the balance of forces. The mandate provided for by the result of last years referendum has been compromised. There can now be no Brexit but a relatively soft Brexit. And this has deepened an already wide fissure in British politics.
Just as for many years, and to a surprising extent still today, the form of Irish politics was about Ireland’s relationship with Britain so for the foreseeable future British politics will be moulded by the aftermath of Brexit. The immediate question for British conservatives is whether Mrs May is now a suitable leader of their party?
Mrs May is a decent woman. But as soon as the above question is posed it becomes obvious that, at best, her future is as a backbencher. The problem is not so much that she lost seats in the election when a competently run campaign could have increased them, but the flaws in her character that the election and the subsequent disaster of Grenfell Tower have revealed. Her problem is not that she cannot feel, her problem is that she cannot communicate. Her demeanour is defensive, even stilted. As we saw her instinct is to avoid debate. But willingness to engage and communication are now everything. The leader of the Conservative party has to be able to persuade the Brexiteers that they cannot have everything that they want- at least not for now. The leader of the Conservative will also have to persuade the Remainers that there is no escape from Brexit. They will too have manage the relationship with the devolved governments- without re-igniting Scottish and Irish nationalism. They will have to handle the most complicated negotiations that Britian has ever conducted, as well as being able appeal to public opinion throughout the EU, at the same time as helping to create new trading relationships throughout the world.
These are challenges indeed. There could well be no one who could meet them all. But clearly they are well beyond Mrs May’s capacities. She has repeated too many stale mantras, and she has already had far too many “Ratner” moments. The longer she stays the more damage she will do. Only a new leader of the Conservative Party can hope to manage Brexit and win the next general election that could come all too soon.
RTE got close to the truth when it referred to a “botched snap election!”