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Theresa May, resume that British voice!


British Prime Minister Theresa May comes out of 10 Downing Street to greet President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz in London on September 22, 2016. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

British Prime Minister Theresa May comes out of 10 Downing Street to greet President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz in London on September 22, 2016.<br />JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

Resume that British voice? Yes; this is a necessary call in an increasingly topsy-turvy world. The freshly-minted British prime minister’s two recent predecessors are the reason for the call. Akin to the manner that a table requires a minimum of three equal legs for stability, the British, since the Great Wars, has been the third voice neutralizing the excessive propensities of the United States of America (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). That role had logically fallen on the British following her de facto leadership of the Allied Nations in World War II; and she had played that critical balancing role with remarkable success until the twilight of the twentieth century.

Anthony Blair who was Labour Party prime minister from 1997 to 2007, considerably (some say criminally) compromised that all-too-crucial British voice in world affairs. The former prime minister had uncharacteristically carried himself like a movie star, reminiscent of US presidents: much brilliance, but less perspicacity. In spite of his many electoral victories, the thoughtful conservativeness that defines the British evidently didn’t come easily to Prime Minister Tony Blair. He certainly wasn’t the quintessential British prime minister in the mold of Benjamin Disraeli; Lloyds George; Winston Churchill, etc. The jury is still out on his stewardship; but snippets from the just-concluded Sir JohnChilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war reveal that ex-Prime minister Tony Blair had based his decision to go to war lesson credible intelligence, and more on his personal pledge to then-US President George W. Bush. The Chilcot Inquiry further reveals that the decision wasn’t subjected to collective ministerial discussion.

Simply put, Tony Blair’s decision to embark on a regime-change military campaign in Iraq wasn’t strictly British. That decision inevitably set in motion Parliamentary petitions against the prime minister that eventually forced him from office, barely two years after his 2005 electoral victory. Chancellor Gordon Brown of the Exchequer stepped into complete the Labour Party’s mandate in 2010.The smooth-talking ex-prime minister’s post-10 Downing Street years have continued to provide insights for that uncharacteristic decision. Tony Blair was simply a businessman prime minister. As they say, evil gets evil. It is now public secret that the Iraq war was inspired by less-than-noble motives; it is therefore small wonder that its aftermaths have been evil like the world has never known.

Today the entire world is psychologically at war on account of the Iraq war, either as direct armed conflicts,or as terrorist activities. Even the Labour Party had its share of those aftermaths as the substitute prime minister had to struggle with intra-party crises. The Labour Party expectedly lost in the subsequent general election in 2010 to a Conservative/Liberal Democrats Parties coalition. David Cameron, that “fantastically” overfed ex-Eton school boy, became prime minister in that coalition. Regrettably, he turned out to be yet another businessman British prime minister, thanks to the Panama papers. Typical of his ilk, he allowed his personal affiliations and interests to assume precedence over the dictates of his high office.

Apparently acting with an eye on his personal relationship with the US, David Cameron, again in the face of suspect intelligence, ill-advisedly rushed to the House of Commons in 2013,requesting British military support for the US proposed action in Syria, should President Bashar al-Assad cross President Barack Obama’s well-publicized red-line on the use of chemical weapons in the escalating civil war in that country. Thanks to the good-old British sense of considered judgment, the Members of Parliament overwhelmingly voted against the request. President Obama who had been taking soundings before presenting his own request to the US Congress, took a queue from the British MPs and quickly thought better of his proposal on Syria. (David Cameron had cried louder than the bereaved).

A regime-change military campaign in Syria would have been one too many in an already highly combustible world. It is puzzling that Barack Obama, an anti-war presidential candidate who had promised to end most of the wars he inherited from his Republican predecessor, would conceive the idea of starting one himself. For many, myself inclusive, Prime Minister David Cameron’s tenure technically came to a screeching end with those Parliamentary nay-votes; but he somehow lived it down. However, a couple of years down the line he had to yield the seals of office following another round of voting by the British people.

Then enter Theresa May. Early glimpses of the new British prime minister and her distinguished antecedents do not suggest a businesswoman prime minister, thankfully so. The second female occupant of the famous 10 Downing Street residence could well match, if not exceed the impressive performance of her female predecessor, the legendary Margaret Thatcher. Incidentally, the two ladies have a number of things in common. They were both respectively born in October; became prime minister at the age of 59 years; share the same initials: TM, MT. Margaret Thatcher was dubbed “Iron Lady” by the media for her resolute position on issues; Theresa May is said to be equally as resolute; just as she is said to have something of the Iron Lady’s remarkable administrative efficiency. The new prime minister is also said not to treat her political enemies with kid gloves, after a fashion of the late female prime minister.

This is all to the good. The world desperately needs that strong third voice at such a time as this.

• Afam, Consulting Engineer, Abuja.

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