Friday, 24 May 2019

The key thing to understand: When Theresa May is alone in a room the room is empty

Britain's membership of the EU has been extended to Hallowe'en. President Macron says there should be no further extension and he has a veto. There is no time to be lost in finding a new British Prime Minister. An election among Tory MPS can be held in a week or so. The two candidates who win most votes from MPs go forward to an election in which party members decide. If Boris Johnson is one of the two the other one would, if he is sensible, drop out. Boris could be Prime Minister in time to greet Donald Trump.

Please, Sir Graham Brady, make this boring woman go today.

They say that all Prime Ministers go mad in the end, but that's not always true. David Cameron and John Major didn't and I think Gordon Brown was mad to start with. Has Theresa May? Why is she clinging on in this way that is frankly embarrassing? 

Camilla Tominey in the Telegraph has another explanation. She has written the best article about our unloved Prime Minister that I ever read and the least charitable. The motivation, she very convincingly suggests, is love of the trappings of office, not a sense of duty. 

The article quotes 'well-placed insiders' who understand Mrs May.

“She behaves like a masochist but the quote about how she will give up the job she loves betrayed something about her. She’s much more into the status of having the job than most people would have thought about her. People think it’s all about duty and public service but she does enjoy the trappings.”

“She enjoys Chequers far too much. She loves hosting people there.”

I had thought less of Theresa May when I read that, unlike the Camerons, she didn't enjoy Chequers and preferred her suburban house. Now I read that the reverse is true I, quite unfairly, find I like her even less.

“She likes all the wining and dining and things being served on silver platters. It comes from a past of having been looked down on by the likes of Cameron and Osborne and the feeling that she’s finally made it.”
"Theresa was annoyed when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister and beat her to it. What keeps her there? This is the only place she’s ever wanted to be. It’s mattered more than anything else in her life.
"If you look at a lot of politicians, most of them have hinterlands. They paint, they read a lot, they write. What do you know about Theresa May that you don’t know about Theresa May? The answer is nothing because there’s nothing else.Her whole political life has really been about her, not her political ideas. She’s never done ideas. She does ambition. Everything in her political life has been dominated by one thought - being Prime Minister.”

“She doesn’t have any ideas so once she’s absorbed her brief she just doggedly decides that that is it."
“The last cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood was a smart guy, because he realised this was the civil service’s chance to take back control. After 2017, he was instrumental in ensuring David Davis was bypassed and Olly Robbins became her Brexit adviser so the civil service could maintain control of the Brexit process." 

“Theresa has never had the slightest interest in Europe. All the way up to the referendum, she said: ‘No one cares, no one’s bothered’."

"Then Nick and Fi (joint chief of staff Fiona Hill) left and Gavin Barwell took over, an arch remainer, so she adopted his ideas. That’s how she can be such a chameleon - she adopts the ideas of others because she doesn’t have any of her own. She always goes with those closest to her, who she trusts and if that group changes, she goes with them.”

All this reminds me of a conversation between Harold Nicolson and J. M. Keynes that I treasured when I read it at 19. It seemed then to explain a lot of the meaning of life.
"What do you think Lloyd George is like when he is alone in a room?" 
" When Lloyd George is alone in a room the room is empty." 

Theresa May is a Sphinx without a secret. She is what she appears to be: a woman of very limited intelligence and poor communication and social skills who has no ideas and only cares about power.

Nothing is as former as a former Prime Minister and Theresa May knows and dreads this. She has no friends, no children, no close relatives, no life outside politics and does not even enjoy the company of politicians. Life on the backbenches she will hate. 

Perhaps she could be sent to govern Bermuda. The Bermudans would be flattered.


  1. 'Perhaps she could be sent to govern...'

    ...Falkland Islands?

  2. "We had intended you to be
    The next Prime Minister but three:
    The stocks were sold; the Press was squared:
    The Middle Class was quite prepared.
    But as it is! . . . My language fails!
    Go out and govern New South Wales!"

  3. I really think that it’ll require a qualified, calm, experienced hostage negotiator to get her out. With more than a few sympathetic people in white coats in reserve, too. Failing that, call Hereford.

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  4. It doesn’t matter that Boris is not Thatcher. It matters whether he will be any good. However it seems to me that his priority will be to keep the Tories alive, and that means together, and that means compromise with the wettest and most venal of them, and keeping acknowledged remainers on board. That’s no good to me. I would rather have Nigel’s earthquake, a radical reform of the system and let the chips fall where they may. I don’t want to go to status quo ante.
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