May's Salisbury response shows real leadership, but is she right to blame Moscow?

March 20, 2018

 

With Britain’s exit from the European Union only one year away, Theresa May’s Conservative government has been under immense pressure from both the public and media to perfect every part of the transition, including trade, immigration, the customs union, Northern Ireland, and the economy. The pressure to ensure a smooth exit has grown in the last year, after May lost her party’s majority in 2016. Every elected politician will feel the whiplash of criticism at every corner, but it is obvious that May’s approval ratings have declined exceptionally, especially among British youth.

 

Many have said that the party lacks leadership, something we would not have been saying a year ago with the phrase ‘strong and stable leadership’ being touted repeatedly by the Tories. The ‘Maybot’ has had the difficult task of putting previous struggles behind her, and is constantly thrown off course by the turbulent, international atmosphere. She has found herself, for example, having to respond to the tragic nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

 

The nerve agent assassination, alleged to be perpetrated by Russia, is the first chemical weapon let loose on UK soil since WWII; and, consequently, Theresa May’s response was of utmost importance.

 

Russia is the primary suspect in this story, which is unravelling like Cold War spy drama. In the House of Commons this week, May said that the events in Wiltshire amounted to “an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom”, and in retaliation, she expelled Russian Diplomats, and decided to boycott this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.

 

Some pundits are questioning whether the assassination was timed to whip up nationalistic fervour and boost Putin’s presidential re-election bid, or whether it was intended to humiliate Britain and send a message about the risks of confronting Russia. This conjecture seems unhelpful. Two people are in hospital getting treatment after being poisoned and we, as citizens, are still unsure about the full picture. Let us take a step back and focus on what we know and what has been said.

 

What gleams from the endless discussion about this event is that the PM seems assured that it was a blatant attack by Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Despite the enormous responsibility of standing up for a country, Mrs. May has been confident, responsive and assertive, in her quest to find justice and truth—hell, she even had time to fist-pump a young member of the public when she visited the scene a few days ago.

 

Shadow Cabinet members like Labour Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, is one individual who sent a message to all party leaders to ‘stand by May’ and her words in this vital period of time. This contrasts greatly to Jeremy Corbyn, who had been criticised for not condemning the attack. May is actually showing the strong and stable leadership that she preached during her campaign: decisiveness, confidence, and focus. This could potentially benefit the PM in regaining the electorates confidence and again establishing her leadership among her peers in Parliament.

 

May has already taken action by evicting diplomats, but she must now ensure that the British people feel protected and safe. This tragedy requires May to establish herself once again as a respected leader.  If she continues to be our trusted defence and stand against Russian corruption, perhaps then she will exemplify strong and stable leadership.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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