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Research Fortnight View: ‘Theresa May, it’s time to go’

For the national good, Theresa May should resign, argues an editorial in Research Fortnight.

Politics, ultimately, is about power. And all political careers, we are often reminded, are expected to end in failure.

Prime minister Theresa May will be well aware of both these truisms. But there is a third, of which she seems singularly ignorant: the most important function of government is to protect citizens. National security, in the broadest sense of the term, is always a government’s number one priority. All other policies fail unless government is able to assure its citizens that it will do what it can to keep them from harm.

May appears not to know this. If she did, she would not be determined to cling so hard to power.

There are three reasons why May should go and go now. First is the extraordinarily foolish decision to seek the support of the 10 MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. It’s not that some DUP members are biblical literalists or climate deniers that should concern us. More of a problem is the threat to a still fragile Northern Ireland peace process.

Peace is always incredibly hard to win, but in Ireland it has endured because a Conservative government decided in 1992 it would no longer take a position on the question of Northern Ireland’s status. Instead, the government opted wisely to become a trusted third party. That change in policy led to paramilitaries putting down their weapons and seeking a political route to their ambitions.

Now, by openly seeking an alliance with one party in the dispute, May is risking a quarter of a century of stability and prosperity, while demonstrating an astonishing lack of judgement.

The second reason that May must go is because her cabinet choices suggest that the government has no interest in heeding the electorate on Brexit. The prime minister very clearly and openly called the 8 June election to validate her ‘all or nothing’ approach to the UK leaving the European Union. The Tories’ loss of overall power suggests that the electorate would prefer a more amicable exit.

The best decision would have been to acknowledge this result, take ownership of it, and adjust both the tone and content of Brexit policy. Instead May brought back Michael Gove, one of the Leave campaign’s star performers, and promoted another prominent proponent, Andrea Leadsom.

May has decided that power is more important than responsibility. This absence of responsibility is perhaps the most important reason why she is the wrong leader for the UK.

After the terrorist outrages of the past few months, searching questions are rightly being asked of the police and security services. But in addition, we must remember that they are implementing policies set by the Home Office at a time when May was home secretary.

Leadership is not only about delivering success, but also about taking responsibility for failure. Time and again May has shown that she cannot—or will not—do this.

The Conservatives are fully aware of this failing and sooner or later will act. That is why it is better for all if the prime minister decides to walk now, before she is pushed.

This article also appeared in Research Fortnight