LONDON – British Prime Minister Theresa May is urging the opposition to help shore up her minority government as it leads the U.K. out of the European Union.
The appeal comes nearly a year after May took office, and just over a month after she suffered a setback from voters in a snap election.
May plans to use a speech on Tuesday to urge the opposition to help hone policy, saying the government’s ideas can be “clarified and improved” through debate and discussion. Extracts of the speech were released in advance by May’s Downing St. office.
May became British leader on July 13, 2016 through a Conservative Party leadership contest after predecessor David Cameron resigned when voters decided, against his advice, to quit the EU. She called an early election for June 8 in an attempt to bolster her majority and strengthen her authority during EU exit talks.
The gamble backfired when voters stripped the Conservatives of their majority in Parliament and boosted the number of seats held by the left-of-centre Labour Party.
The result means May must rely on deal-making and compromises to pass legislation, and is struggling to persuade her party that she is not a lame duck.
It has also emboldened opponents of Brexit, who hope to make the government take a more conciliatory line in divorce talks with the EU.
The election setback has led the government to abandon many of the pledges May campaigned on, including plans to reform secondary education and make seniors pay more for their long-term care.
Instead, the government says it will devote its energy to trying to pass the laws needed to pave the way for Brexit — due to take place in March 2019.
Now, May is seeking to re-boot her premiership, harking back to a promise on her first day in office to “forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world and … make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.”
Acknowledging that the election result “was not what I wanted,” May on Tuesday will urge opposition parties “to contribute, not just criticize.”
“We may not agree on everything, but through debate and discussion — the hallmarks of our parliamentary democracy — ideas can be clarified and improved and a better way forward found,” she plans to say.
May’s most senior Cabinet Minister, Damian Green, said Monday that the speech was an appeal for “a grown-up way of doing politics.”
And despite rumours of Conservative plots to oust May, Green told Sky News that “the prime minister is determined to carry on to lead the party and the country for many years to come.”