Nothing seems to possess the shock and awe factor like British politics. Since the EU Referendum the British public have awoke each day to a barrage of headlines that would be a political story for a month had they not been pushed aside by a new development the following day.
This rang true on Monday when Theresa May launched her campaign bid to be Prime Minister in Britain’s second city Birmingham. Within a few minutes of her finishing a Q&A to journalists rumours spread through the room that her rival Andrea Leadsom was going to withdraw. Within half n’ hour Leadsom had humbly withdrawn from the leadership race, and Theresa May’s timeline of accession had been agreed with the incumbent David Cameron.
Politics is brutal and British politics, based on parliamentary democracy, has been shown to be wonderful apt at rising to the challenge and strains of a post-BrExit landscape. The landscape Theresa May faces is one no other post-war British Prime Minister has ever faced. Theresa May will enter 10 Downing Street to a government that has been paralysed by the EU referendum, with decisions on Heathrow, Hs2, and Trident Renewal delayed and negated.
All of these ambitions are vitally important to the Conservative Party’s ‘One Nation Tory’ agenda but none are quite as important as national security. At a press conference at a NATO summit, David Cameron announced a vote on renewing four nuclear submarines would be held on July 18th. Thus, it will be the first major vote that Prime Minister Theresa May will preside over.
For David Cameron it was going to be a defining and historic vote, but for Theresa May she will preside over the voter after only being in office as Prime Minister for 4 days. How immensely challenging this will be cannot be understated. She faces a divided party and a divided country. Her appeal for calm and stability will quench the latter challenge, but only a well-managed and effective cabinet will solve the former. Without a cabinet that is both experienced and also new – as well as split between Leavers and Remainers – Theresa May could face resurfacing tensions within her own party.
However, if she strikes the right balance in the cabinet, backbenchers will be willing to demonstrate unity, to leap at the chance of getting behind their new Prime Minister, and strengthening their message that they are the party of government. Moreover, most Conservatives value the role of a nuclear deterrent and strong national defences.
As May manages the vote on trident she will be reassured that the benches opposite her are bloodied and battered by a long civil war that shows no sign of relenting.
The division in the Labour Party is perhaps symbolised by the views of Labour MP’s on Trident Renewal. Centre-left ‘Blairites’ ascribe to the view that a round the clock nuclear deterrent keeps Britain safe and maintains Britain’s global status as a military power. Comparatively, the hard left under the leadership of Corbyn see it as an expensive vanity project, the source of theirs views rooted in an innate disdain of nuclear weapons cemented by their alliance with CND and non-proliferation organisations.
As further Labour MP’s come forward to challenge Corbyn, the divisions and aggression in the party will only harden, meaning the fight against Corbyn will play out in the voting lobbies on Trident renewal. A vote for the renewal of trident will be a vote against Corbyn and will signify defiance against his continuing leadership of the Labour Party.
This will be calming to Theresa May, whose first major vote as PM is a historic one for British defence, security and its place in the world. It will set the tone of a Theresa May administration, one that puts security first and is willing to take on the difficult decisions. If the vote is passed it will signify that Britain’s new Prime Minister means business. It will boldly state that Britain is still a major world player and it will reassure our European Allies, particularly the Baltic States, that Britain will continue to provide a leading role in European Security.