Theresa May has been told to ‘find her inner Boudica’ – here’s why that’s a terrible idea

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                                An ancient Theresa May? Shutterstock

Martha Vandrei, University of Exeter

The figure of Boudica, queen of the Iceni, is surprisingly resilient. Since the Renaissance, she has turned up in public discourse pretty consistently in Britain, from celebrations of the defeat of the Spanish Armada to the imperialist triumphalism of the late Victorian era. Over this long period, Boudica has come in for criticism, as well as for lionisation. The latest example of the latter is Nick Timothy’s recent article in The Sun, encouraging his former boss, Theresa May, to “find her inner Boudicca [sic]”, in negotiations with the EU.

Of course, the facts of Boudica’s bloody and ultimately disastrous first century rebellion against the Roman occupiers of Britain – as the New Statesman rightly pointed out – make a comparison with the UK’s current prime minister problematic at best. Timothy’s way of dealing with these inconvenient facts was to dismiss them in his article as mere “details”. Continue reading “Theresa May has been told to ‘find her inner Boudica’ – here’s why that’s a terrible idea”

Is Theresa May the Next Harold Wilson?

Harold Wilson campaigned for a Yes vote in 1975, despite achieving office on a Eurosceptic manifesto the year before.

Josh Hockley-Still
University of Exeter

The Windrush scandal and the subsequent resignation of yet another Cabinet Minister, Amber Rudd, means that Theresa May’s continued occupancy of No. 10 Downing Street appears ever more insecure. Her political obituary has already been written on multiple occasions, and yet she continues to survive.

Has there ever been a British Prime Minister who has displayed such resilience when their odds of political survival looked so bleak?

Yes. His name is Harold Wilson.

These days Wilson is more commonly compared to David Cameron, as in 2016 when Cameron attempted without success to follow Wilson’s playbook on how to win a European referendum. However, in political style and temperament Wilson has far more in common with May than Cameron.

So what are the similarities between Wilson and May, and what does this mean for British politics? Continue reading “Is Theresa May the Next Harold Wilson?”

Britain’s imperial ghosts have taken control of Brexit

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Marc-William Palen
University of Exeter

As long as Theresa May’s Conservative government is representing the UK at the Brexit negotiating table, Britain’s imperial past will continue to haunt its European withdrawal. The ghost that looms largest is none other than the prime minister’s “political hero” and “new lodestar”, Birmingham’s turn-of-the-century imperial protectionist, Joseph Chamberlain.

Like the early 20th century that Chamberlain lived in, the world has witnessed a resurgence of economic nationalism since the 2007 to 2009 recession. Britain, through Brexit, is leading this retreat from economic globalisation. The May government’s proposal to pursue an economic plan of “Britain for the British” after Brexit harkens back to Chamberlain’s bygone imperial age of Tory protectionism. Continue reading “Britain’s imperial ghosts have taken control of Brexit”