In my wildest imagination I cannot picture President Donald Trump strolling along hand in hand with Britain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, even figuratively. But in this weirdest of worlds, they might find themselves in a position where they are forced to superficially get along to preserve the hallowed transatlantic alliance.
Prime Minister Theresa May once said there was no way she would call for a snap election. That was a sensible decision from her perspective. An unelected leader charged with the mammoth task of getting the UK out of the EU with as little damage as possible, should have left well alone.
Fuelled by an abundance of overconfidence and an April poll indicating the Conservative Party was leading its main rival by 20 points, she made a U-turn that could see the Tories losing a substantial number of parliamentary seats on June 9 resulting in a hung parliament and her own political demise. Today her party’s lead has been reduced to single digits.
That’s not her first major flip-flop. If you recall, she campaigned against Brexit before thunderously swinging over to the other side and has backtracked on penalising the elderly with a tax to supplement their health care costs—a cynical, unprincipled idea when most have paid into the system throughout their working lives.
A recent YouGov predictor indicating that the Conservatives may not have sufficient seats to form a government has visibly dented her confidence.
She does not look nearly as strong and stable as she once did. She appears to have developed a stammer, repeats the same slogans and clearly fears engaging in televised debates.
Under fire, she accepted to answer viewers’ questions during a BBC Special alongside Corbyn who expressed his regret that she would not debate him “head-to-head.”
Her predecessor’s fatal decision to hold a Brexit referendum, in the belief remaining was a done deal and thus triggering his own exit, should have given her pause for thought.
Determined and focused
Conversely, Corbyn who isn’t known for projecting personal strength has risen to the occasion. He sounds determined, focused and is cleverly wooing Liberal Democrats and Scottish nationalists in hopes of forming a coalition.
In the event of a hung parliament, he might just do it.
It is one thing for a capable career civil servant like May to step into the breach when the top job is unexpectedly vacated but someone who was at the back of the queue when likeability was being doled out has to work doubly hard to attract votes.
Her failure to defend the Paris Climate Accord against Trump’s ravaging by appending her signature to a critical joint statement signed by the leaders of France, Germany and Italy does not endear her to Britons who care about the planet. A percentage of those who voted to remain in the EU might be tempted to register an ‘anyone but May’ protest ballot.
In any event, when she is resented by her EU counterparts who’ve given her the cold shoulder during an EU Summit, whether she is the right person to secure a good deal amid such hostility is open to question.
Unfortunately, neither candidate can be classed as stellar by anyone other than their diehard supporters. Corbyn sees his country through a 1960s socialist pre-Thatcher prism when trade unions held Britain hostage. He’s an anti-war, anti-nuclear activist turned politician who is cosy with the Iranian leadership to the extent he was once a regular on the Iranian English-language channel Press TV and has urged the lifting of anti-Iranian sanctions.
He has referred to the killing of Osama Bin Laden as “an assassination attempt” and “a tragedy.” He has called the leaders of Hamas “friends.” He should expect to have frosty relationships with many of Westminster’s traditional allies.
Britain is traversing uncharted waters; it is in dire need of a wise head atop broad shoulders to guide it through what will inevitably be a painful transition away from Europe. There is no towering, charismatic figure in the race so all that’s left to say ever so politely is let the best man or woman win!
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.