A new era in the UK

A new era in the UK

The job Theresa May has taken over will not be an easy one at all. With a country almost divided in half by supporters and opponents of last month’s Brexit vote (which itself was very much a close call), Scotland threatening to abandon the union and stay in the European Union and the probable resultant economic challenges, May might be compelled to indeed be the “Second Iron Lady.” Could she be as bold as Margaret Thatcher, the first ever female British prime minister, and earn the title of “Iron Lady” or will she be an affectionate mother who will embrace her country and carry it to a brighter “bold new role” outside the European Union?

In her first statement in front of 10 Downing Street as the new U.K. prime minister she underlined, “We will rise to the challenge. As we leave the European Union we will forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world, and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.”

The first and immediate tasks May must face will most probably be reestablishing balances within her party and soothing Scottish secession considerations. As was expected, the first May cabinet reflected a rather balanced approach and a serious effort to patch things up. Yet the real test will be how she handles the Brexit process. May has repeatedly declared that “Brexit means Brexit” and that there can be no attempt to reverse the referendum outcome, but at least for now she apparently wants to buy some time and start walking such a turbulent road only after putting her house in order. May already said the Brexit process should not be launched before the end of the year. EU leaders, particularly France, however appear to be rather keen on moving forward and for the sake of “resolving the uncertainty atmosphere” demanding Britain launch formal divorce proceedings rapidly.

Damian Green, who worked for May as home office minister until 2014, said, “Theresa doesn’t do verbiage, doesn’t do speeches for the sake of making speeches. One of her virtues is that when she says something today she means it tomorrow.”  He was quoted by the New York Times commenting about what a serious “woman of her word” May has been.

Was she indeed? Will “Brexit means Brexit” remain intact? When she and the European allies start the divorce process, how she will handle the situation? As a member of Cameron’s cabinet she was a “Remainer.” But from the moment she stepped forth to declare her candidacy for the Conservative Party leadership, and thus for the prime minister’s seat vacated by Cameron, she consistently underlined she would respect the will of the people. Will she indeed?

While Brexit supporters are probably wary of her commitment to their cause, Catherine Meyer, a former treasurer of the Conservative Party and a friend of the May couple, defended in remarks to the media that though she out of loyalty to Cameron was a “Remainer” during the Brexit referendum campaign, she indeed was a Eurosceptic and believed it would be best for Britain’s national security to be out of EU.

In a country like George Orwell’s famous novel “1984” where we keep on changing who is an enemy and who is a friend, it is indeed difficult to expect a politician to remain loyal to her words six months from now. But, while it might be difficult to understand for people accustomed to the appointment of prime ministers handpicked by an absolute authority, May was not chosen by the queen, she was the choice of her party and the queen just fulfilled a formality by asking her to form the new cabinet. Perhaps it is wiser to not try to compare how, for example, Ahmet Davutoğlu was compelled to abandon the Prime Ministry and why an over-confident Cameron pulled Britain to a referendum failed, accepted defeat and vacated his leadership seat. Yet, there ought to be standards in democratic behavior as well.

If six major terrorist incidents rocked two major cities of a country and killed hundreds of people, the “standard” expectation of a democratic society ought to be something different than attributing the dastardly developments to fate. Instead of a fatalist approach, a democratic society must ask the politicians and civil servants responsible for such gross intelligence and management failures to abandon their positions and give an account of their failures in proper inquiries.

Perhaps it would not be an exaggerated comment to say a new era has started for Britain with its second-ever female prime minister. Will this be a new start for Europe? Or, what will the repercussions of developments in England be for Turkey’s European vocation? What might be the meaning of a British national with a Turkish background becoming the foreign secretary? Boris Johnson cannot be Ali Kemal, his great grandfather, who was claimed to have been kidnapped by Turkish intelligence, accused of being a British spy and lynched by “Young Officers” in 1922.

These and some other very important questions will have to wait for their turn to be answered.