Theresa May is an embarrassment to the Conservative Party and to the country. She has to go immediately.
She has run the most disastrous Conservative campaign since Ted Heath lost the “Who Governs Britain” election of February 1974, and probably worse even than that. Every decision she took during the campaign turned out to be a misjudgement, and she managed to lose a lead of 20% in just seven weeks of campaigning. Her incompetence alone is breath-taking.
She didn’t need to have an election at all and she certainly didn’t need to have it shortly after issuing the Article 50 notification, thereby guaranteeing a delay of weeks and risking a delay of months in getting the strictly time-limited Brexit negotiations under way. The chaotic election result may well now mean that nothing useful can be done for months.
She has cemented her already growing reputation for untrustworthiness. Many lawyers were already suspicious after her (in)famous 2011 Conference speech, in which (amongst other things) she claimed that the Human Rights Act had to be repealed because a judge hearing an appeal against deportation had had regard to a man’s ownership of a pet cat. She told a half-truth for a round of applause.
Many others found it curious that she should have opposed Brexit when it looked like Remain would win the referendum, only to become its most enthusiastic supporter once Leave actually did so. The Vicar’s daughter of Maidenhead could give lessons in political opportunism to the Vicar of Bray (which, appropriately enough, is a charming village in her Maidenhead constituency).
She promised not to have an election, then had one anyway.
She pretended that her “dementia tax” cap was a “clarification” of policy, when it was obvious to everyone that it was a change.
A reputation for trustworthiness is hard to gain. It is easily lost. Lies and half-truths have tumbled out of her mouth like brown water from a cheap civic fountain. It is impossible to see how anyone can ever trust her pronouncements on anything ever again.
She has cemented an already growing reputation for weakness with the reversal of her “dementia tax” proposals as soon as they came under attack. In an otherwise rather feeble performance from both interviewer and interviewee Jeremy Paxman struck home with his jibe that she was a “blowhard who flinched at the first sound of gunfire.”
She has cemented a reputation for cowardice after she refused to take on Jeremy Corbyn in debate, particularly after she allowed the recently bereaved Amber Rudd to stand in on her behalf. In fact this reputation may be a little unfair: her famous speech to the Police Federation, received in stony silence, must have taken a degree of courage. Unfortunately her excuse for not debating with the Labour leader – that she preferred to be out meeting “ordinary people” – was so risible that it merely reinforced her reputation for untrustworthiness.
Incompetence, untrustworthiness, weakness and possibly cowardice: any of these would be a serious personality flaw. Together they should spell political oblivion. As she chose to fight the campaign largely on the issue of her personality one needs to add a complete absence of self-awareness to that list of faults.
She allowed the Labour Party to get away with, and in fact to do rather well, with the most left wing manifesto since 1983.
For some reason she thought that simply repeating the same empty slogans could serve as the answer to every question, and that they would substitute for argument and debate. That was yet another insult to the electorate’s intelligence, and it also meant that Labour Party were given an almost completely free hand to promote a fairy-tale manifesto.
Not once did she make the case for lower taxes as a good in itself. Not once did she challenge Labour’s assumption that you can simply raise taxes to increase revenue without taking into account that raising taxes suppresses economic activity, drives rich people abroad, leads to increased tax evasion and as a result often produces less revenue than lowering them.
She allowed the campaign to be cluttered with unpopular fringe projects
There may be a lot wrong with the hunting ban, but the fact is that restoring hunting with hounds is not a popular cause. It has always been treated as a matter of conscience rather than party politics. Why drag the party into a campaign to restore fox-hunting?
Why include a commitment to relax the ban on the sale of ivory, allowing the Conservatives to be perceived as the anti-elephant party? By what near-insane thought process could anyone possibly have concluded that killing more elephants was a vote winner? Was there a good ecological reason for opposing a ban on ivory sales? If so, we never heard it articulated, and so the Conservatives were portrayed as elephant-killers: that’s a hard sell with the young.
Her “confidence and supply” deal with the Democratic Unionists is a Faustian pact that has begun with hypocrisy and could well end in catastrophe.
She announced during the campaign that if she lost 6 seats Jeremy Corbyn would become the Prime Minister of a “coalition of chaos” with the Scottish Nationalists. It was a disingenuous dishonest claim when she made it – patently, losing just 6 seats was never going to let Corbyn into Downing Street. She lost more than double that and she is still there, and Jeremy Corbyn is not Prime Minister.
Perhaps even worse than the dishonesty, she is now herself entering into just such a “coalition of chaos”, the only difference being that she is doing so with the DUP rather than the SNP. So we can add hypocrisy to her list of personal failings.
In fact, coming to an arrangement with the DUP is even more undesirable than would be a Labour coalition with the Scottish Nationalists. (Let’s leave on one side the possible past association of some members of the DUP with loyalist terrorists, because if you don’t leave that sort of thing on one side it becomes very difficult to talk to lots of Ulster politicians). Scotland at least has a robust Parliament and Executive.
Northern Ireland’s political settlement, on the other hand, is currently teetering on the edge of collapse. If that is to be prevented, somehow the DUP and Sinn Fein need to reach an agreement, and they probably need to be encouraged and cajoled into doing so. If the British Government is in a formal arrangement with the DUP that will, to put it mildly, greatly complicate the process. How can the Northern Ireland Minister possibly appear to be neutral in any negotiations? How can the British Government put any pressure on the DUP to compromise, without the risk that the DUP will then bring that Government down? In fact they will probably do so anyway, and at a time of their own, not Theresa May’s, choosing.
Does it really make sense to enter into an arrangement which makes any potential crisis in Northern Ireland even more difficult to deal with? We should of course remember – Mrs May can certainly remember – that the words “crisis in Northern Ireland” used to be a euphemism for bombings, murders and knee-cappings. To risk peace in Northern Ireland for the sake of this tawdry deal strikes me as the very opposite of statesmanship.
And it gets worse. Article 1 (v) of the Good Friday Agreement commits the “sovereign government” to exercise its power with “rigorous impartiality.” Only by quibbling over the precise meaning of “sovereign government” can a deal between the DUP and the sovereign government in Westminster be understood as anything other than a breach of the Good Friday Agreement. The spirit of the agreement is abundantly clear: Britain is meant to be impartial between the Northern Ireland parties. It is not acceptable to be Perfidious Albion just to let a broken Prime Minister stagger on for a few more months. By even contemplating this deal Mrs May is playing with a blow-torch in a petrol station.
Of course government must go on, but far better to govern as a minority for a few months before the inevitable election than to attempt the impossible task of governing in the national interest while in hock to a party whose values are very different to those of the great mass of the British people.
And of course the DUP’s policies on abortion and gay marriage are hardly likely to help the Conservative Party’s attempts to win over younger voters who chose to vote for Corbyn. I would guess that they strike most people under the age of 45, and many much older people too, as ridiculous at best and plain nasty at worst. It’s a curious alliance to be made by a woman who, long ago now, announced that the Conservatives were regarded as “the nasty party.”
The deal is a grotesque strategic misjudgement, and the Conservative Party will pay heavily for it.
Many of my instincts are conservative, and my vote in the past has quite often been Conservative. Many years ago I was even, briefly, a Party member. I am the sort of floating voter that the Conservatives need if they are to win elections. I want a free and tolerant society, with taxes kept as low as possible and government interference in everyday life kept to a minimum. They are values that the Conservative party once bravely, and successfully, championed. It has lost sight of them under its current charmless, narrow-minded, incompetent, untrustworthy, and hypocritical leader.
Why exactly are we meant to trust someone with these characteristics to negotiate a good Brexit deal?
In less than a year Theresa May’s leadership has proved a disaster. She must go immediately or she will lead her party to oblivion and the country to catastrophe.