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15 November 2016

Theresa May: Liberals are their own worst enemies

The PM spoke just before a memo emerged describing splits in the Cabinet. 

By Julia Rampen

Liberals who fail to see that many people have not consented to their ideology are their own worst enemies, Theresa May has warned.

In her first Mansion House speech, the Prime Minister told a glittering audience of City grandees that “the true mark of leadership” was responding flexibly to political change.

She told the dinner: “When you refuse to accept that globalisation in its current form has left too many people behind, you’re not sowing the seeds for its growth, but for its ruin.

“When you fail to see that the liberal consensus that has held sway for decades has failed to maintain the consent of many people, you’re not the champion of liberalism but the enemy of it.”

May said “we must” keep making the case for globalism and liberalism, but there was no contradiction in doing that and making it “work for everyone”. 

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The Prime Minister did not dwell on Donald Trump, save a passing reference to the “President-elect in the US who defied the polls”, but nevertheless her speech drew parallels between Brexit Britain and anti-globalisation movements elsewhere.

Britain was a pioneering country that had set the template for others, she said, and had a “historic global opportunity” to provide leadership.

But while May eloquently summed up the fine line traditional politicians must now tread between two historic forces of change, in practice she may find it rather more difficult.

The Times reports on a leaked memo – what government sources have described as a consultancy pitch – suggesting there are divisions in the Cabinet on the course of Brexit, 500 different Brexit-related projects in Whitehall and a shortage of up to 30,000 staff.