The two candidates vying to be the next leader of the UK Conservative Party, and by default, the next Prime Minister of Britain, are coming to the end of their campaigns. They are facing tougher than usual questioning, and both are seen to be struggling under the pressure. For US readers, these characters are the equivalent of Republican grandees. Well-educated, previous experience in government, and both suitably smug and complacent.
Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson are competing in a one-horse race to win the prize. That will be voted on only by the members of the UK Conservative Party; around 160,000 people, out of a population of around 67,000,000. I say one-horse race, because Boris Johnson is the out-and-out leader, and expected to win, by everybody. This man seems to be a tousle-haired buffoon. A supporter of the Right in politics, and a bumbling former Mayor of London.
But don’t be fooled by his public persona. He is very intelligent, and knows very well how to play to the ‘mob’.
There is little chance Hunt will beat him, but to me that is of little consequence. They are both the awful descendants of Margaret Thatcher. Supporters of the rich and privileged, big business, and their financial backers. They won’t keep a single promise they are making, whichever one of the evil men wins.
We supposedly have a choice, voted for by their own party members. But for me, it is no choice at all.
They are both as bad as each other. In my world, they would be hanging from lamp-posts.
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.
Following the referendum vote last summer, David Cameron beat a hasty retreat from his job as Prime Minister, closely followed by his resignation as a Conservative member of Parliament. He was so keen to get out of politics, it’s a wonder that his shoes didn’t catch fire at the speed of his departure. It says something of a man whose life was supposedly so dedicated to politics that he became the holder of the highest job in the land, only to clear off the moment he didn’t win something. Like a spoiled boy taking his football home, because his team didn’t score a goal.
We haven’t heard that much about him since, have we? He gave up a huge salary, (but presumably kept a good pension) and couldn’t even be bothered to continue to represent the Oxfordshire voters who supported him over the years. He cast aside his responsibilities like a badly-stained raincoat, without so much as a look over his shoulder.
But fear not. ‘Call me Dave’ isn’t begging for loose change outside a railway station. Far from it.
He has signed up with a lucrative agency that supplies speakers for events and dinners. The potential earnings are huge, especially for someone who can bleat on about how and why he gave up the top job in UK politics. He has claimed that he can offer ‘lessons in leadership’ as well. (Stop laughing…)
And just in case that’s not enough to keep him in designer socks, he has also struck a book deal, for his official ‘warts and all’ autobiography. Publishers Harper Collins are reported to have offered a deal that could be worth up to £800,000 at the very least. That alone is equivalent to forty years salary for someone earning the average of around £20,000 a year.
Now they just have to find someone to write the book.
And what of his wife, the lovely Samantha? Will she be sitting dutifully at home, waiting to heat up his macaroni cheese when he gets in after a long lunchtime speaking engagement? Apparently not. For she has put her name to a new up-market fashion brand, with prices starting at £100, and going up to a lot more than that. She told Vogue magazine that her forty-piece collection would be aimed at High Street shoppers. Shows how long it has been since she shopped in a High Street in Britain.
So we need not worry. Dave and Sam are sorted. Their old friends have rallied round, found them some nice little jobs, and they are set for life. Makes me feel all warm inside.
We are about to see a new resident in Number Ten Downing Street. Tomorrow, David Cameron goes to pastures new, (and no doubt very prosperous pastures too) leaving his post, and handing over the most important job in the UK to Theresa May, the current Home Secretary. She will become the second woman to hold this office in the UK, the first being the reviled Margaret Thatcher. Let’s hope that she is not planning on becoming a ‘Thatcher 2: The Sequel.’
After a brief but acrimonious leadership election, it was always her that was the favourite to win. Despite some slurs about her not relating to families because she has no children, she kept her nerve, and was an easy winner. Her political pedigree is second to none, and she has held many important cabinet posts since she was first elected as a member of parliament, in 1997. She is known for her tough stance on some issues, and for a liberal opinion on others, including support of same-sex marriage. Naturally, I hold no brief for this woman. She is a Conservative, and I dislike them all, by default. They are friends of business, big money interests, and the preservation of the status quo. They have little interest in ordinary working-class people, and tend to revel in the age of Empire, surrounded by fluttering Union flags. Despite her own position of wishing to Remain in the EU, she now represents a party that voted overwhelmingly to Leave.
Of course, the voters of this country had no choice about who would become their next Prime Minister. Like many before her, she was foisted upon us, by an electoral system that has gone unchanged for decades. In the UK, we vote for a local member of parliament, not for a leader; a person to take charge of the country, and to be its political figurehead. In the last century, half of those who became the Prime Minister did so by being elected leader of their party after the death or resignation of their predecessor, and not as the result of a general election. So, nothing unusual about Mrs May, and her rise to power. As all this is going on, the so-called Opposition, the Labour Party, is also torn apart by a challenge to its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Like Theresa May, Corbyn was the choice of the party members all over the country. And like her, he was not the natural choice of his fellow members of parliament.
Whatever the outcome, it is certain that the opposition parties will remain weak and divided. They have little to offer in the way of solid policies to counter the current Conservative regime, and remain locked in a cycle of remonstrations and regrets about the possibility of departure from the EU, as the whole party campaigned for a Remain vote. As long as they fail to show solidarity, to get behind the elected leader they already have, they are unlikely to unsettle someone as steely and determined as our new Prime Minister.
Theresa May was born in 1956, making her four years younger than me. I would say that she has a lot still left in her, at the age of 60. I have a bad feeling that we are going to have to get used to seeing her around for a very long time.