Theresa May warns she is ‘worried about the state of politics’ in final major speech as Prime Minister

Theresa May has warned that she is “worried about the state of politics” as she gave what is expected to be her final major speech as Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister told an audience on Wednesday in Chatham House, London, that the country has “grounds for serious concern” about the state of politics.

She said: “It has been democratic politics, an open market economy, and the enduring values of free speech, the rule of law and a system of government founded on the concept of inviolable human rights that has provided the nexus of that progress in the past.

“And a healthy body politic will be essential to consolidating and extending that progress in the future. It is on that score that today we do have grounds for serious concern.

“Both domestically and internationally, in substance and in tone, I’m worried about the state of politics.”

© Thomson Reuters Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at Chatham House in London, Britain July 17, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/PoolShe also called for a politics based on compromise and pragmatism, rather than an absolutist approach.

“The sustainability of modern politics derives not from an uncompromising absolutism but rather through the painstaking marking out of a common ground,” she said.

“That doesn’t mean abandoning our principles – far from it, it means delivering on them with the consent of people on all sides of the debate, so they can ultimately accept the legitimacy of what is being done, even if it may not be the outcome they would initially have preferred.”

Mrs May also touched on Brexit in her speech, saying that the only way to resolve the current impasse was to deliver on the referendum result.

She said there is “no greater regret for me than that I could not do so”, adding: “But whatever path we take must be sustainable for the long term – so that delivering Brexit brings our country back together. That has to mean some kind of compromise.

© Thomson Reuters Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at Chatham House in London, Britain July 17, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/Pool

“Some argue I should have taken the United Kingdom out of the European Union with no deal on 29 March. Some wanted a purer version of Brexit. Others to find a way of stopping it altogether.

“But most people across our country had a preference for getting it done with a deal. And I believe the strength of the deal I negotiated was that it delivered on the vote of the referendum to leave the European Union, while also responding to the concerns of those who had voted to remain.” 

Mrs May said the “problem” was that politics “retreated back into its binary pre-referendum positions – a winner takes all approach to leaving or remaining”.

“And when opinions have become polarised – and driven by ideology – it becomes incredibly hard for a compromise to become a rallying point.”


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