Alex Massie comments on May’s predicament following Trump’s attacks on London’s mayor:
So Mrs May says nothing, even though saying nothing makes her look terrible. This is no time for a showboating Prime Minister, she might say, and she might have half a point. But it still looks weak and miserable and craven and all kinds of rotten.
The telling thing, however, is not May’s timidity but, rather, the manner in which the British government now speaks about the American government. For it is now clear that Trump is, at best, an unreliable friend and even, perhaps, a kind of ‘frenemy’. We have to try to do some business with him but we will do so while holding our nose.
May’s reluctance to criticize in this case may have been understandable, but like a lot of her other campaign stumbles it was a mistake that a cannier politician wouldn’t have made. Trump’s criticism of the mayor of London wasn’t just poorly-timed and unwelcome. It was the shabbiest form of demagoguery directed at the representative of a city that had just suffered a horrible attack, and the fact that the city is the capital of a major ally just made it that much more obnoxious. It doesn’t require enormous reserves of fortitude and courage to push back against something like this, but for whatever reason May didn’t. If the campaign were going well for May, it might not be a big problem, but coming in the wake of numerous other stumbles it is just one more embarrassing performance by the prime minister.
This comes at a time when Corbyn is effectively hitting May over significant cuts to police forces that she oversaw while in charge of the Home Office. Tom Goodenough notes that May has now been put on the defensive on this issue, which undermines her core theme of being strong on security:
Of course, there’s no direct evidence that falling police numbers have increased the terror threat or that more police could have prevented any of the recent atrocities. But as May pointed out herself during today’s speech ‘nothing is more important than keeping our country safe’. In light of that, it should come as no surprise to the PM that some are now asking questions about whether cutting police numbers really was a sensible move.
May’s response to the London attacks was to say “enough is enough,” but it is just possible that many voters will think that phrase should apply to her own government.
P.S. One former Tory aide has gone so far as to call for May’s resignation in the wake of the latest attacks.