Theresa May's Accusation Against the PM
Former Prime Minister Theresa May has accused her successor Boris Johnson of abandoning Britain’s position of “global moral leadership”. Mrs May warned Mr Johnson’s threat to override the UK’s treaty obligations in the Brexit divorce settlement risked signalling a “retreat” from the UK’s global commitments.
In an article in the Daily Mail to mark the inauguration of Joe Biden as the US president (and reported on by the London Evening Standard as well as most national newspapers), she hit out at the way Donald Trump had “whipped up” his supporters to storm the Capitol after refusing to accept the election result.
Mrs May drew comparisons with the murder of Pc Keith Palmer in a terrorist attack outside the Houses of Parliament. “What happened in Washington was not the act of a lone extremist or a secretive cell, but an assault by a partisan mob whipped up by an elected president,” she said.
“I know from experience that leaving power is not easy – especially when you feel that there is more you want to do. But anyone who has the honour of serving in such a position must always remember that the office is bigger than the individual. “The peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of any democracy; it is what makes us special.”
Mrs May said the arrival of Mr Biden in the White House represented a “golden opportunity” for Britain, with the return of a more normal style of presidency.
However, for the full potential of “Global Britain” to be realised in this new era there needed to be a change in international affairs and an end to the “absolutism” which said “if you are not 100 per cent for me then you must be 100 per cent against me”.
“In this world there is no room for mature compromise. Indeed, compromise is seen as a dirty word. In fact, the opposite is true,” she said.
“Strong leadership knows when to compromise to achieve a greater good. If the world is to work together to ‘build back better’ then we must all be willing to compromise.
“We must reject a scene in which a few strongmen face off against each other and instead bring people together in a common cause.”
Mrs May said that while the UK was well placed to play a decisive role in shaping a more cooperative world, she suggested it had not been helped by Mr Johnson’s actions.
She again strongly criticised his threat – later withdrawn – to override elements relating to Northern Ireland in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and his decision to drop the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on international aid.
“To lead we must live up to our values,” she said. “Threatening to break international law by going back on a treaty we had just signed and abandoning our position of global moral leadership as the only major economy to meet both the 2 per cent defence spending target and the 0.7 per cent international aid target were not actions which, in my view, raised our credibility in the eyes of the world.
“Other countries listen to what we say not simply because of who we are, but because of what we do. The world does not owe us a prominent place on its stage.
“Whatever the rhetoric we deploy, it is our actions which count. So, we should do nothing which signals a retreat from our global commitments.”
KJM Today Opinion
Whatever one's view of Theresa May's time as Prime Minister, she might well have a point in her comments regarding moral leadership. Boris Johnson became the UK PM after due process within the Conservative party and retained his position with his party winning a general election, and with a substantial majority. He can thus say with justification that he has a mandate from the British people to run the country on their behalf. He also won that election on the back of his promise to 'Get Brexit Done'. This he has and it is to his credit. Whether or not the agreement the UK now has with the EU and its member countries stands the test of time is, obviously, yet to be known and it is only time that will tell.
However, what the PM does not have is permission from the people to ride roughshod over either them or other countries (in or out of the EU) or to break agreements that have been made. This is a method employed at times by the outgoing President of the United States, Donald Trump. Some will say it is a good method, others not. But the real question must be, is it right to do so?
Again, some will say it is. But President Trump spent much of the past four years alienating people, both on his own side and those who oppose him. The result is a disputed end to his time as President after one term. Donald Trump had a golden opportunity to cement himself as one of the the great reforming Presidents of his country but seemingly lacked the necessary relationship-building skills to do so.
Boris Johnson has a similar opportunity. Thus far, despite keeping his word over Brexit, he also has been found wanting over the Covid-19 pandemic. In fairness, so has almost every other world leader as all are following the same oppressive path.
Boris Johnson still has the best part of four years to prove himself. If he does not, his time as Prime Minister will not be judged a success.