Why Theresa May is the worst British prime minister in living memory

Anne Applebaum writes:

“She was dealt a bad hand.” “She took a poisoned chalice.” From a great distance, it is possible to feel sorry for British Prime Minister Theresa May. She seems so dignified. She seems to be trying so hard. The circles beneath her eyes have grown so much deeper since she became prime minister back in 2016, following the surprise result of the Brexit referendum, the resignation of her hapless predecessor, David Cameron, and an ugly leadership squabble, during which several of her male colleagues metaphorically stabbed one another in the back. Since then, she has always seemed to outsiders the sensible person in the room, the adult who knows what she is doing, the sane person in a madhouse.

Alas, she is not any of those things. She is not sensible, she does not know what she is doing, and, increasingly, she doesn’t seem to be entirely sane either. Outside of Westminster, the extent of May’s responsibility for this crisis might not be fully appreciated. But in truth, almost everything about Brexit — from the nature of the deal she negotiated to the divisions in her party and her country — is very much her fault. The latest development — European leaders have told her that the United Kingdom can have a Brexit extension until May 22, if May can get her withdrawal agreement passed in Parliament, but must crash out of all of its trading arrangements on April 12 if not — underlines this bitter truth. She is not to be pitied: She is the worst prime minister in living memory, presiding over a crisis of her own creation.

The list of her mistakes is not short. She did not have to trigger Article 50, the legal mechanism for leaving the European Union, before making a plan on how to do so: That decision set a two-year clock ticking and has resulted in the cliff edge the country would have reached on the 29th of this month if an extension had not been granted. She did not have to call an unnecessary parliamentary election in 2017, one which resulted in the loss of her majority and forced her to rely on a small, radical, Protestant Northern Irish political party, as well as the extreme anti-European faction within her own party, in order to stay in power. [Continue reading…]

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