Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Theresa May reaches the top of the greasy pole


Another astonishing day in British politics. Disraeli said the unexpected always happens and it certainly does in his party. Andrea Leadsom stood down yesterday and Theresa May (the Home Secretary, not the 'glamour model' who keeps getting mistaken for her) will be Prime Minister tomorrow if she lives that long. She has promised that Brexit will happen and 'Brexit will mean Brexit'.

Mr. Cameron's last day and last Question Time is tomorrow. He will be remembered in history as a risible figure, though in many ways well-meaning and talented. He is compared to Lord North. The British in America would probably have rebelled eventually whatever Lord North had done but the British might not have left the EU were it not for David Cameron's referendum. Remain would have won a referendum in five years time, when Eurosceptics had died and been replaced by the Europhile progressive young. Cameron's referendum came almost at the last possible moment for a Leave win.

It’s very good news. I don't like Mrs. May at all, but better her than her opponent, the very nice Mrs. Leadsom, who would probably have been hopelessly out of her depth. Now for 'the hard smack of firm government' (Eden's phrase, not that delivered it.)

Party leaders should be elected only by MPs - surely that's obvious? And Mrs. May was the choice of three quarters of her colleagues. 

Members should never have been allowed a vote. That’s how we got Neil Kinnock, Ian Duncan Smith, Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn. It's another indication of how Parliament has lost power, as is the referendum.

None of the Tory candidates looked able to be a good Prime Minister except Michael Gove and after the mess he made of things one has questions about him. Even though Michael Howard, a wise bird, backed her, Andrea Leadsom could have made a terrible mess and been another IDS. At least with Mrs. May an adult is in charge of the playground.

And though she has many faults, we are ruled by cabinets not Prime Ministers. And we need a PM ASAP - waiting for Tory activists to decide in September was fraught with huge peril. I hope she chooses good colleagues, like David Davies, Liam Fox, Michael Gove. Why not Michael Howard for Foreign Secretary, even though he's in the Lords?

I'd love Osborne, the devious and untruthful architect of Project Fear, to be booted out - but he would make trouble - so make him Secretary of State for Paperclips. 

Mrs. Leadsom might easily have won the leadership had she not pulled out of the race. Why did she do so? A big row about the accuracy of her CV, followed by another one about her perfectly reasonable but naive remarks about why being mother helped her to be a good political leader. I suspect she also realised she was not ready for the job. She deserves to be congratulated by the whole country, as does Michael Gove, who could have tried to insist that as third runner-up he should replace her as Mrs. May's opponent.

As William Waldegrave said in 1997, by leaving Europe, which he wanted us to do, we lose our status as a semi-great power. And this is fine.

We may however gain respect from the world by not wasting energy on the European Project, which is something we never believed in. We can gain respect by not making unjust wars and not wasting money on a replacement for Trident. Unfortunately, Theresa May has pledged to do just that. Above all we can win respect and set an example by sharply reducing in vast numbers of non European immigrants who settle in the UK each year. But this is something Mrs. May, who really wanted to do so, did not accomplish. 

I fear her because she is a Blairite, a statist, a 'moderniser' and a feminist, who promised us in her victory speech even more social engineering. She voted in favour of homosexual marriage and was as committed to legally-enforced feminism as Harriet Harman. Mrs. Leadsom's proposal to exempt businesses with three employees or fewer from many employment laws was much more appealing. But I hope the grace of office descends on Theresa May, as it did, surprisingly enough, on Callaghan, but not on Major or Brown.

Everyone in Britain has to hope that.

Meanwhile Angela Eagle has launched a bid for the Labour leadership and Jeremy Corbyn spoke to a Cuba Solidarity Campaign meeting. He does belong, one feels, in a comedy - a Boulting brothers film perhaps. Or perhaps he is a Michael Wharton character somehow come to life — like Mrs. Dutt-Pauker, the Hampstead socialist with the Maoist Albanian au pair, Gjoq. He exists in a universe, parallel to our own, which is beyond parody.


  1. Excellent article, with which I mostly agree. The crucial part will indeed be who is in the new cabinet. Paul King

  2. I share your anxieties about May, but agree that Leadsom wasn't up to it - not because of the motherhood remarks - when did that suddenly become a hate crime? But because she let the media batter her to bits with that feather duster instead of telling them where to get off. Spot on about Corbyn!