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.
We all woke up to some surprising news this morning. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has called an election in June, just a few weeks away. She could have stayed on until 2020, under the rules in the UK, but instead has chosen to put her policies, and her un-elected leadership, to the voters of Britain, three years early.
The BBC reports this as a ‘surprise decision’, and as you might imagine, there is nothing else being reported in our media at the moment. But is it a surprise? Well, not to me at least, and I suspect that anyone who spends any amount of time being interested in politics is unlikely to be surprised either.
There has rarely been a time in this country when the opposition to the sitting government has been less effective. With the constant attacks on the leader of the official opposition, The Labour Party, by almost every media source, and many in his own party, it appears unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn has any hope of winning. If he does fail to do so, he will probably be forced out anyway. The Liberal Democrats also have their least effective leader in decades, so are not going to pose any threat. As for the nationalists, UKIP, their only elected members are deserting that party as fast as they can get their jackets fastened, and they have little impact in this country anymore.
As for the Scottish Nationalists, they will continue to go on about independence, Brexit, and asking for another referendum. They may enjoy a huge majority in their own country, but have little effect on the UK overall. The Conservatives enjoy one of their biggest leads in the polls for a very long time. Despite all the hoo-hah about Brexit, and talk of a ‘divided nation’, we have to face the fact that the current Conservative government is generally regarded to be doing a good job of running the country, like it or not.
In 2016, we all saw that polls could no longer be trusted though. The June election might appear to be a done deal already, with Mrs May sweeping back into power, confident in her popularity.
But you never know. Not any more…
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.