Saturday 23 March 2019

Theresa May was never anywhere near up to the job of Prime Minister - or up to her previous job

Winston Churchill's successor as Prime Minister Clement Attlee was famously a man of few words and unemotional about firing ministers. When one minister asked him why he was being fired Attlee tersely said
"Not up to the job."
Back in the 1980s, when I disliked Margaret Thatcher very much, I remember people telling me that there was no alternative (her phrase) because Labour leader Neil Kinnock was simply not up to the job of being Prime Minister. My reply was that no Prime Minister I ever heard of was not up to the job. The grace of office (Norman St John Stevas's fey expression) descended on them.

This was true except for Sir Anthony Eden, but the grace of office did not descend on John Major who was hopeless and much too small a man to be Prime Minister. The same is true of Gordon Brown and most of all the present incumbent.

Rafael Behr in the Guardian yesterday says her fellow European leaders realised this in September:

"The point of no return was the summit in Salzburg last September. May was invited to make the case for what was left of her “Chequers plan” to European heads of government. It was late. They were tired. There were other difficult matters to attend to. And instead of speaking candidly, persuasively, passionately or even just coherently, the British prime minister read mechanically from a text that was, in substance, no different from an op-ed article already published under her name in a German newspaper that morning. It was embarrassing and insulting. Many European diplomats say that was the moment when Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and others realised they were dealing with someone out of her depth, unable to perform at the level required for the job that needed doing."
It sounds as if the European leaders find her as embarrassingly dim  as did David Cameron and George Osborne in cabinet, which is why she did not offer the latter a job. She told him to get to know the party, which is the moment when satire died.

At the Davros conference in January 2017 when influential people wanted to hear her ideas about Brexit she made a boring and authoritarian speech, urging more regulation of social media companies, that she had made before. 

Her dullness and lack of imagination are not a clever act. They are the woman.

No Prime Minister leaves No. 10 Downing Street sane, they say. I am not sure that's true, though Eden didn't nor Heath. 

Wilson may have been suffering from incipient dementia and was an alcoholic, like Macmillan, but neither of them was mad. Nor certainly was Lord Home, the best Prime Minister of the last seventy years. 

Did Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair go mad? Many would say yes. 

Gordon Brown's mental extreme strangeness, which was known to Mr Blair and others, should have made them prevent him succeeding as Prime Minister. Mrs May too was always very odd, we can see. She now seems pretty clearly to be having a profound psychological crisis. Marina Hyde's column in the Guardian today has the headline:

For Theresa May, ‘I’m a tin-eared lunatic’ seems to be the hardest word

For her sake and her country's, but mostly for the country's, let's retire her.

She was never up to the job of being Home Secretary, a job she was given by David Cameron, on George Osborne's advice, simply to have a woman in one of the great offices of state. She is one of many great examples of the dangers of promoting people for diversity reasons.

A man I know who knew her in OUCA at Oxford remembers her as sweet, sly and not very bright. These qualities have not changed except that the sweetness is nowhere to be seen, but she has not been sly enough - or bright enough.

She also shows that we needed as Prime Minister a Leaver who believed in Brexit to sell Brexit at home and abroad and to convince the EU leaders that we might well leave with no deal unless they gave us a good reason not to do so.

Here is a link to a Telegraph article by Jonathan Foreman in the 2016 Conservative leadership election campaign headlined “Theresa May is a great self-promoter, but a terrible Home Secretary”, which was pulled after pressure from her campaign. 

"In general Mrs May has avoided taking on the most serious institutional problems that afflict British policing. These include a disturbing willingness by some forces to let public relations concerns determine policing priorities, widespread overreliance on CCTV, the widespread propensity to massage crime numbers, the extreme risk aversion manifested during the London riots, and the preference for diverting police resources to patrol social media rather than the country’s streets.

"There is also little evidence that Mrs May has paid much attention to the failure of several forces to protect vulnerable girls from the ethnically-motivated sexual predation seen in Rotherham and elsewhere. Nor, despite her supposed feminism, has Mrs May’s done much to ensure that girls from certain ethnic groups are protected from forced marriage and genital mutilation. But again, Mrs May has managed to evade criticism for this.

"When considering her suitability for party leadership, it’s also worth remembering Mrs May’s notorious “lack of collegiality”.

"David Laws’ memoirs paint a vivid picture of a secretive, rigid, controlling, even vengeful minister, so unpleasant to colleagues that a dread of meetings with her was something that cabinet members from both parties could bond over.

"Unsurprisingly, Mrs May’s overwhelming concern with taking credit and deflecting blame made for a difficult working relationship with her department, just as her propensity for briefing the press against cabinet colleagues made her its most disliked member in two successive governments.
"It is possible that Mrs May’s intimidating ruthlessness could make her the right person to negotiate with EU leaders. However, there’s little in her record to suggest she possesses either strong negotiation skills or the ability to win allies among other leaders, unlike Michael Gove, of whom David Laws wrote 'it was possible to disagree with him but impossible to dislike him'."
As Home Secretary she is to be congratulated on insisting that immigration should fall to the tens of thousands for the sake of preserving social cohesion. However, she presided over annual numbers of immigrants of over 300,000, though the numbers of people permanently settling in the UK were possibly less than half of that.

She is out of her depth but she is also malign, chippy, authoritarian, mendacious, insipid, an egalitarian and a statist, a centre left social democrat with no love for British traditional life. 

Had she led her party to a big majority in 2017 things would be much worse than they are now. 

1 comment:

  1. President Trump has repeatedly offered the U.K. a trade deal to replace the EU. This was her chief bargaining chip opposite Brussels and she threw it away. The United States would be a better arrangement — the U.S. is a much stronger economy and as the Americans will not concede any sovereignty to another country, nor will it demand any. Whatever Canadians may have thought of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. never attempted to assert any of the insolent bureaucratized dirigisme that Brussels inflicts upon E.U. countries.

    I had assumed that May was, as she claimed, basically a leaver, and had set it up to go without a deal and straight into the arms of the U.S. and blame the failure to reach a deal on the intransigence of Brussels, Corbyn, and some of her own MP’s. It now emerges that she is a spavined pantomime horse of releave and lemain, trying to muddle through ambiguously until either Britain is forced out by the clock or there is a second referendum that cancels the first. She seems incapable of leading and wants events to lead.

    I predict that there will be no agreement in Parliament next week, nor prior to April 12, and that crashing out will be almost completely painless and imperceptible, and May will either take the hint that she has a serious confidence-problem and go, or fumble along until November and be handed a bus ticket. In either case, the new prime minister will be a compromise candidate but a leaver, such as the former Brexit ministers, Dominic Raab and David Davis (both of whom quit in disagreement with May’s concessions to Brussels). The British will be much happier with the Americans and ourselves than they have been with Brussels, and will negotiate trade arrangements with the EU similar to those of Norway and Switzerland. As in many things, the imagination of Brexit will be more torturing than the reality.

    Conrad Black: Brexit's a mess, and here's what's coming next