Politics is a precarious path for a career, that’s for sure. Not so long ago, Theresa May was flavour of the month. The new strong woman, adored by many of the rank and file supporters, a better option than Thatcher; less abrasive, no annoying children, and smartly dressed too, in designer clothes.
Even though she hadn’t supported leaving the EU, she boldly threw her hat into the ring to succeed Cameron, emerging as the new leader with her own catchphrases, ‘Brexit Means Brexit’, and ‘Strong And Stable’. Even her enemies had to concede that she had a handle on things, and that she epitomised the Conservative ideology in a way that the public schoolboys preceding her never could.
Somewhere along the way though, it all went very wrong. Perhaps she was badly advised, or maybe the whole thing just went to her head. She could have waited out the term of the government, got on with the job, and led the negotiations around leaving the EU. But she wanted more. Personal approval, public affirmation of her leadership, and the possible destruction of any viable opposition.
So she called an election. One she was expected to win. One I thought she would win. I expected a Conservative landslide, the end of Jeremy Corbyn as opposition leader, and successive Conservative governments ruling unhindered until my dying day. All she had to do was to keep her nerve, and not disclose the reality of their policies. Say a few nice things, meet a few real people, including some who didn’t agree with her. Get her hands a little dirty on the campaign trail, and try to come across as someone behind the mask, and that iron grey hair.
But no. Instead, she decided to tell us what was best for us. The rich would continue to get richer, the poor could stay where they belong, and everyone in the middle would just do as they were told. She scolded her greatest supporters, the elderly, by taunting them with the prospect of selling their houses to pay for social care. She would not increase their pensions, and would means-test them for every benefit and allowance. As for the young, they wouldn’t vote anyway, so they could all shut up.
Why bother to appear on national TV debates, to argue her point? Why meet people in deprived areas that she didn’t want to associate with? Better to travel to nice comfortable places, where she would be welcomed by the wealthy and unconcerned. Better to give solo interviews to reporters than to face questioning from plebs about her policies. She didn’t need to do any of that, she was certain. Her victory would be enormous, the insiders and the pollsters had all told her, and she believed them.
They got it wrong, and so did she. She emerged with a tiny majority, and had to seek support of the far right DUP to prop up her government. Anyone else would have admitted failure, and resigned. At the very least, they would have gone back to the country with another election, apologised for their previous errors, and sought a bigger mandate. But she decided to cling on, to become an embarrassing figure, a female John Major, going from ‘The Grey Men’, to ‘The Grey Woman’. Then came the additional mistakes. Refusing to meet the victims at the site of the Grenfell Tower fire, and refusing to give interviews to the BBC journalists at the scene. As her political opponents showed their chops by hugging homeless victims, and helping to shift boxes of aid, she hurried back in her car to the studios of the BBC, to give a ‘personal’ interview with one chosen reporter.
She then threw away any chance of redemption via that interview, by harping on about the same things, boasting about the £5 million in aid for the victims, but unable to tell the reporter when and how it will be given out. She refused to accept any government responsibility for ignoring safety warnings after similar fires, and repeated her prepared quotes like a broken record. She looked older already, the signature eye-bags bigger than ever, her posture slumped and defensive. The reporter eventually gave up, her voice tinged with frustration at the attitude from the leader of Great Britain.
Mrs May is on her way out of politics, that’s for sure. And she only has herself to blame.