Saturday 24 August 2019

May bemoans 'coarsening' of debate in parting shot

Theresa May. Photo: Leon Neal/PA
Theresa May. Photo: Leon Neal/PA

Anna Mikhailova

Theresa May yesterday fired a parting shot at politicians who make promises they "cannot keep" and tell people what they want to hear.

In her final lengthy speech as UK prime minister, she also warned against the spread of "absolutism" and populism in British and global politics.

She said there has been a "coarsening" of debate which could take the UK to a "much darker place" and breed a political culture based on "winners and losers".

While Mrs May insisted her comments were a "general observation", they will be seen as criticism aimed at Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.

She told an event in London: "An inability to combine principles with pragmatism and make a compromise when required seems to have driven our whole political discourse down the wrong path. It has led to what is, in effect, a form of absolutism, one which believes that if you simply assert your view loud enough and long enough, you will get your way in the end, or that mobilising your own faction is more important than bringing others with you. This is coarsening our public debate."

In what appeared to be an attack on Mr Trump, Mrs May said: "This absolutism is not confined to British politics. It festers in politics all across the world. We see it in the increasingly adversarial nature of international relations, where one country can only gain if others lose."

She said the only way to resolve the "Brexit impasse" was to deliver on the referendum result, insisting there is "no greater regret for me than that I could not do so" and advised her successor to try to secure a Brexit deal and find a way to leave the EU that was "in the national interest".

She said: "I think we had a good deal, but Parliament wasn't willing to come behind that with a majority."

Mrs May also defended the Irish backstop, the most divisive part of her Brexit deal.

Irish Independent

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