A Commentary by Michael Jarvis, London UK
To wish British Prime Minister Theresa May a Merry Christmas might just be the cruellest of jokes.
To wish the American President Donald Trump likewise…well, the joke’s on him really.
In the past weeks leading up to Christmas, instead of spending her time shopping for Christmas presents (or delegating that to someone else), the British Prime Minister has been hoping for a way out of her Brexit imbroglio.
On the surface of it Mrs May, it can be said with a greater degree of sincerity than one might ascribe to President Trump, apparently means well.
The British prime minister is quite Thatcherite in her stance of adamantly ‘defending democracy’ and fighting to uphold ‘the will of the people’ who voted to leave the European Union in a 52% to 48% 2016 referendum.
But even her ‘Brexit means Brexit, is now ringing more and more hollow.
Appearing in the UK House of Commons on Monday in a last ditch attempt to sway parliamentarians to support her Withdrawal Deal with the EU, Prime Minister May again ran into a headwind of opposition, including from within her own party ranks.
Having already lost cabinet and other ministers in her government, she is now facing resistance from even amongst her loyalists to hold a parliamentary vote before the Christmas recess.
Instead she has opted to schedule it for the third week of January.
The result is that after surviving a confidence-sapping no-confidence motion within her own Conservative party, she is now facing a parliamentary vote of confidence tabled late Monday by the main opposition Labour Party.
And that only came after some degree of equivocation by the Labour leader himself Jeremy Corbyn.
There are some doubts over whether Mr Corbyn’s motion will succeed given his party’s handling of the Brexit issue process - and especially on Monday.
Should Christmas greetings for him be equally equivocal?
Still, up to late Monday, Mrs May was not budging; remaining firm in her conviction that ‘the British people have spoken’.
Against mounting odds she battles on reminiscent of full Thatcher mode, seeking to defy the mounting odds that her version and vision of Brexit are doomed to fail.
Mrs May’s version - if not necessarily her hope - for anything amounting to a ‘least hard, less painful’ Brexit has already been dealt a fatal blow by the European Union.
The attacks and challenges on the beleaguered British prime minister have been non-stop - and have now gone international.
Not only have there been scathing commentaries in the British, European and American press, mocking skits of Mrs May’s Brexit dilemma have made it onto German and US prime time television.
When the American comedy show Saturday Night Live satirises you as on the same level as US President Donald Trump, any prospect of a ‘Merry Christmas’ is skating on thin ice.
And the political ice that Mrs May is skating on is thin indeed.
- She has had to fight off an internal no-confidence motion, only to realise that one third of her MPs are against her.
- Her government’s tenuous prop-up arrangement with the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party is on shaky ground because of Brexit.
- Her attempt to placate the EU hoping to review, clarify or explain the ‘deal’ that she has negotiated with them has fallen flat
- and she has had to confront the leadership of the EU over criticisms of being ‘nebulous’ initially felt to have been ascribed directly to her. The EU leadership has said it was meant as a general observation of how the UK has been going about the Brexit break-up.
Lost in translation? Perhaps not. Nebulous means nebulous.
On top of all that Mrs May has to battle growing calls for a ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit, a parliamentary vote on her deal (which is all but certain will be voted down anyway), calls for a new referendum, plus mounting uncertainty over the UK’s economic prospects currently and post-Brexit.
And much to Mrs May’s dismay, former Labour Party prime minister Tony Blair has intensified his Brexit interventions by pushing for a people’s vote on her EU deal, or even a new referendum.
Now, David Cameron, her predecessor as Conservative prime minister who initiated the Brexit referendum has reportedly offered to advise Mrs May her on healing the growing rifts within the party.
That might not exactly be the Christmas gift Prime Minister May might have been hoping for.
To wish Mrs May any version of a ‘Merry Christmas’ amidst all this would be insincere at least. Wishing her well seems more apt.
Above all, it’s hard to visualise Mrs May in any semblance of a Nero setting; having a merry old Christmas while her Brexit burns.
What do you wish for a man who thinks that he is already the best gift to himself, his country and the world?
He has already ‘walled himself in’ on many fronts; the legal, political and economic.
But unlike Mrs May, it’s quite likely that Mr Trump will either fiddle…or play golf.
Merry Christmas. MAYbe.