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May's fine words, but she faces a tough job

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 14/07/2016

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street

Unionists in Northern Ireland will have been heartened by new Prime Minister Theresa May emphasiing the full name of the Tory party, the Conservative and Unionist Party, and stressing how the Union is very important to her.

Describing the Union between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as a precious, precious bond, it was obvious that Mrs May was setting out her stall as a premier with the interests of the whole of the UK at heart.

To further underline her one nation credentials, she listed the obstacles faced by the majority of people in coping with daily life and how she intended to head a Government intent on introducing social justice so that everyone could fulfil their potential, no matter what their starting point in life.

These were fine words - cynics might ask what else would a new Prime Minister pledge - but such was her emphasis on these issues, there does seem to be a greater focus on ensuring that society is fairer. She is doubtless aware that a significant part of the Brexit vote was fuelled by the anger many working class areas felt towards the political classes and how Europe and everything else had seemed to fail them.

Mrs May knows that one of the most pressing issues facing her is a potential break-up of the United Kingdom. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain within Europe and the Scottish Nationalists see the vote to leave as a Heaven-sent opportunity to hold another referendum on independence. The question is not whether there will be another plebiscite on this issue, but rather when.

The new Prime Minister may stress how important the Union is to her as much as she likes, but she knows Tory votes in Scotland are as rare as hens' teeth and she faces an arduous task in trying to persuade Scotland that its future lies within a UK outside of the EU.

If Scotland was to cede - and that, of course, remains a worst case scenario - the Union would be severely weakened, and would a weak Union really be a Union at all?

Away from the constitutional issue, it will be interesting to see how Mrs May's pledge to help those who struggle will pan out. Will her compassion extend to mitigating the austerity that Northern Ireland must inevitably face in the coming months and years? As with all new Prime Ministers, the public wish is that they can fulfil their promises and create a true one nation. In the meantime, we wish her good luck in her challenging new role.

Belfast Telegraph

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