From this election, I am able to draw two solid conclusions. That calling it was a tragic mistake, and that Theresa May is one of the worst Conservative leaders in history.
Britain, rightfully, expects its leaders to be in possession of good judgement. Perhaps it’s laughable in an era as mad and dishonest as ours, but the Prime Minister is a person whom we trust to approach any and all events and opportunities with a level head. The idea of the current occupant of that office, clinging on after a catastrophically arrogant gamble, deciding to throw the country to a snap general election because of a few flattering opinion polls angers me beyond belief.
Dangerously underestimated opposition in the form of Jeremy Corbyn, unexpectedly high turnout among young voters, a backlash against seven years of austerity, the unfortunate influence of newly unemployed joint Chiefs of Staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. There are many excuses one might pluck out in an attempt to explain the country’s latest electoral boob. All might have truth to them, but we mustn't forget the real villain in this most ridiculous of pantomimes.
Theresa May has proven, for all her hubris and bravado, that she is a leader of astounding political incompetence. The erratic wizards that are pollsters are cackling hard. Let it be a lesson to Theresa May never to be so pathetically spellbound by them again. Let it also educate her on the price of arrogance.
“Certainty”. That was what the Prime Minister vacuously pledged as she stood before Downing Street, a million miles away from the stunning landslide she had no doubt dreamed of. Even as a Conservative, I am less than convinced.
Oh, and you’d be forgiven if you thought you’d missed May make mention of the election. Her party’s failure, which May herself defined as a loss of six seats, simply didn’t come up.
And so back into No. 10 she strolled, willfully deaf to calamity left behind her. A justified outcry prompted a belated apology to the party sometime later, but I can't say I was in the mood to accept it. May has spoken of the need to lead the nation “forward”. Unless Tory backbenches have gone soft, leading may not be her responsibility before too long.
Lamenting the loss of David Cameron, and celebrating the internal reform he and George Osborne are responsible for, seems to be a regular recurrence in all of my writing, but after an election result as agonising as this one I find it very difficult not to hark back to May’s predecessor.
It was remarked in former Liberal Democrat MP David Laws’ memoirs that Cameron and Osborne would “sell their mothers” if it meant they could hold on to Downing Street. Thankfully, Mrs Cameron was not sold, and remained available to offer Jeremy Corbyn helpful advice on how to appropriately dress himself. More relevantly, of course, the quote is a somewhat hyperbolic and admittedly amusing reflection on the extent of David Cameron's struggle. He insisted the party “not to go back to the old ways” maintained by his predecessors, prompting inevitable muttering from his more traditionalist backbenchers, and found his determination rewarded with an unexpected majority. Cameron and his allies did not spend eleven years detoxifying the Tory Party for May to throw the fruits of their efforts into the political dustbin.
Theresa May made the decision upon her coronation in July last year to go her own way, as every new leader is entitled to do. For a short time, against what seemed to be spectacularly poor opposition, it appeared her departure from the old order would work. Rather like the polls the Prime Minister based this entire election on, public opinion changed.
To be ignorant to the effectiveness of the moderniser brand was of terribly poor judgement. After all, Mrs May would not be able to count me as a party member were it not for the leadership of David Cameron and George Osborne.
When I stop foaming from the mouth, I may care to take a bite of humble pie. Jeremy Corbyn’s surge at the ballot box was as unexpected as Theresa May’s decline. Corbyn will never be a fine parliamentarian, but parliament was never his chosen arena. He is a natural campaigner, and against a typically negative Tory campaign it was his vision that emerged as the more positive one.
That does not alter the fact that 172 of his own MPs denounced him less than twelve months ago, or that his manifesto’s costings were feeble. Just twenty four hours before polling day, he decided to change his would-be cabinet by replacing Diane Abbott. Corbyn's supposed success in this election is born from dismal expectations. The Labour Party continues to be a terrible alternative to the Conservatives.
So why was this election such a struggle for Theresa May? Even with Corbyn's personal appeal, and May’s lack of it, taken into consideration, the Conservatives should still have been in a position of great strength. A competent leader would not have produced a result that left the Labour leader grinning from ear to ear.
If May truly is an android of Lynton Crosby’s making, as many of the left speculate, her mechanics have suffered a fatal malfunction. Our party's election campaign, before it descended into chaos over social care and embarrassing refusals to appear at televised debates, began with Mrs May at its centre. If it was party strategy to attempt the formation of a personality cult, it would probably have been wise to elect a leader with personality.
It may be of great surprise, but I am not actually of the opinion that Theresa May should resign. Yet.
By removing May now, her executioners would run the real risk of sparking a second snap election. A Corbyn win would not be so impossible if the country were to go to the polls before the year ends. Focus has already been drawn away from Brexit, and the country's dwindling economic prospects, by this pointless election. These distractions cannot be exacerbated further by the election of a Labour government.
I am furious with Theresa May, and so I fully sympathise with all MPs and activists who feel the same, but would urge them to put away their knives. Perhaps keep them near, and rest assured I will happily contribute a dagger of my own when the time is right, but do not hold them to May’s back while there are more important things to settle. A possible leadership election is a concern for clearer days. Let anger now be the fuel liberal Tories need to claw their party from insanity.
The Bible judges gambling to be a sin. Perhaps the vicar’s daughter should have remembered that.
A ‘safe pair of hands’ tremble. ‘Strong and stable leadership’ becomes a mantra as false as it is laughable. An imperious ‘Queen of Denial’, as the London Evening Standard calls her, cowers in Downing Street licking her wounds. This election, called with the most conceited of motives, has left Theresa May suitably humiliated. Once Britain becomes a little more confident in its direction, one would be right to conclude it will be her last.
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