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The two most divisive red and blue leaders of our time: how May and Corbyn are certainly not the answer to post-Brexit Britain.
With a general election not scheduled until 2022, and recent reports that Labour are trailing in the latest YouGov poll, Jeremy Corbyn’s continual declaration that his party are a ‘government-in-waiting’ seems all the more futile. His statement has been undermined by the Labour Party’s inconsistency on Brexit, allegations of antisemitism within Labour and evident mistrust in Corbyn among some members of his party.
His Conservative counterpart, Prime Minister Theresa May, faces what many believe is a sterner task. In negotiating Brexit, May directs a political policy that she personally doesn’t agree with. Whilst not the egotistical oaf of a leader that her former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson would have been, May’s been unable to ensure a smooth transition for the UK as it prepares to leave the European Union (EU) in March 2019. Miraculous though it may be that she remains in her job, her failure to deliver a final Brexit deal is worrying, with the UK being plunged into an abyss that seems to deepen with each passing day of her premiership.
Described by Jeremy Paxman as ‘the biggest political question of our time’ in his 2017 interview with May, it’s no wonder that while Brexit remains unclear, it’ll continue to be as divisive as the two respective leaders, Corbyn and May.
Many believe a second referendum is necessary due to the ambiguity surrounding Brexit. May has previously even expressed her own anxiety surrounding the vote, with a leaked recording to The Guardian revealing her fears over prominent businesses leaving following Britain’s decision to withdraw from the EU. However, since becoming Prime Minister, any trace of May’s ‘remainer’ stance prior to the referendum has been swept aside by both herself and Conservative Party members. In her interview with Paxman, before last year’s election, she constantly referred to herself as bound by what the British people voted for. Yet, with her job status ever more insecure, it’s no wonder she’s looking more uncomfortable as Brexit looms nearer.
The resignation of two of her top ministers, former Brexit Secretary David Davis and Boris Johnson (both pictured above), has underlined her unstable leadership. This is partly due to her inconsistent attitude towards Brexit. For example, in a recent Sunday Telegraph column, May speaks of how she won’t be backed into a corner by her own party or Parliament, despite widespread condemnation of her ‘Chequers Deal’. Although ‘confident’ of a Brexit deal, the Prime Minister has also declared that she won’t compromise on her plan with those she’s negotiating with. This, again, shows May’s naivety; it appears she believes that a No Deal Brexit is preferable to achieving a financially secure post-Brexit Britain.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn has been extremely critical of the Conservative Party’s dithering attitude towards undergoing Brexit negotiations, promising that Labour would secure a Brexit deal. However, his criticisms may be guilty of over-confidence, given the internal issues that he’s faced since becoming Labour Party leader. Indeed, some remain voters held Corbyn responsible for Brexit, due to his own personal EU apathy. Shortly after the UK voted to leave, a no confidence vote in Corbyn was triggered by a majority of 172-40 Labour MPs, with many viewing his leadership as ‘untenable’. Corbyn defeated Owen Smith’s subsequent leadership bid, which seemed to mark a turning point in his fortunes. His and Labour’s post-election charge has been brought to an abrupt halt this summer with ongoing allegations of antisemitism in the party.
Allegations have been made against the Labour leader himself, the first of these being comments surrounding a group of British Jews in 2013. Corbyn was subsequently branded as an anti-Semite by the former chief rabbi Lord Sacks, who’s since gone on record to warn British Jews about the danger the Labour leader presents. Further criticism came Corbyn’s way when it was revealed that he attended a wreath laying ceremony in Tunisia in honour of individuals believed to be ringleaders of the Black September group, responsible for the 1972 Munich Olympics attacks. While defending his actions in Tunisia, citing them as part of his attempts to bring peace in the Middle East, Corbyn’s personally ensured the issue of antisemitism will continue to engulf Labour.
I don’t believe Corbyn is an anti-Semite as his track record in areas like anti-apartheid campaigning shows he’s not a discriminatory man. He has spoken of his sadness of the casualties on both sides of the Israeli-Palestine conflict and repeatedly called for a ceasefire. However, as Brexit nears, the issue has only deepened with Frank Field MP resigning the Labour whip in protest. He must, as former Labour leader Gordon Brown put it, ‘cleanse the party of anti-semitism’.
Ultimately, both parties have made little progress on Brexit, a vital issue that’ll affecting people of the UK and millions of European citizens. The Conservative Brexiteers, adamant that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, have become blinded in their fantastical attempts to reclaim Britain as an empire of dominance. Meanwhile, Labour seem confused as to what they seek from Brexit, hamstrung by a leader who’s never been a strong EU advocate.
If picking who I think the stronger leader was the answer, then I believe that Corbyn’s admirable conscience and charisma gives him an edge, evidenced by his appearance at Glastonbury last year, a riveting PR success. Contrastingly, May has been constantly humiliated in her own personal attempts to garner public support through personality rather than politics. However, despite my political bias towards Corbyn, I admit he’s currently not the man to lead the UK through Brexit due to his party’s current internal strife. Therefore, I must unfortunately pray for the uninspiring Conservative Party and hope they make a success of Brexit – a hope that’s dying every day they remain in government.