Sunday, April 14, 2024
HomeKathy GyngellDemocracy in tatters, empty coffers – the legacy of May

Democracy in tatters, empty coffers – the legacy of May


THERESA May’s days as Prime Minister were numbered from the moment the result of the General Election she so optimistically called in June 2017 was announced –  a disastrous loss of 13 crucial seats and the small majority the Conservatives had.

It hardly seemed credible that she would not resign, not least because it all but destroyed her personal bargaining strength with the EU over Brexit.

This was but the first time we witnessed  May’s blind obduracy and refusal to let go triumphing over common sense and her country’s best interests. If she thought she could talk her way out of this failure, her painfully embarrassing cough-interrupted speech at that year’s party conference proved otherwise. Surely then she would resign? Anyone with a smidgen of self-respect would have done so.  But no – the cringe inducing  Mrs May convinced herself – or was convinced – that she was the only person who could ‘deliver’ Brexit. Her pusillanimous and disunited party allowed her to continue with this self-delusion, the Remainer faction seeing her weakness as the route to killing Brexit – a policy her civil servants endorsed – and the Brexiteer wing too divided in their egos and ambitions to call her out.

What followed can only be described as a policy of progressive capitulation to the EU, and one of national humiliation, which the declinists in the Civil Service and all those in the thrall of the EU perversely seemed to encourage and enjoy as they do to this day, never mind the EU’s own intractable problems.

However the woman who was proving so spectacularly unable to take on her EU masters had no such problem when it came to bullying, sidelining and diminishing her own ministers, especially those desperate to take a a stronger line with the EU. David Davis and Boris Johnson had no honourable choice but to resign after she bounced the Cabinet into accepting her Chequers plan. Of course their colleagues should have followed – but unbelievably Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox, Esther McVey, Penny Mordaunt compromised themselves. Preferring to put perks before principle, hanging on to their ministerial cars and the trappings of office on the pretext that they would fight her from the inside, they stayed. And so did she. The Brexit sceptic Olly Robbins was left in the ascendant.

Boris should have followed through, shamed his colleagues, denounced her publicly in the House of Commons, stated his lack of confidence in her, and called on her to resign.

He didn’t. And Mrs May continued bulldozing her ‘runt’ cabinet into submission, insultingly giving them no time a few months later to read what turned out to be the first of her triple lock withdrawal agreements drawn up it is said by Sabine Weijand and Olly Robbins. It was unconscionable treatment, but most went along with it.

Jacob Rees-Mogg alone (with support of some members of the ERG) in the Conservative Party had the courage and the honesty to tell her in Parliament to resign and to call a vote of no confidence. His colleagues proved to be lesser men than he.  The vote went against him and Mrs May clung on though with less support than Mrs Thatcher resigned on. Drip by drip ministerial resignations that then followed each of May’s attempts to get her BRINO through the Commons proved sadly ineffectual.

Nor did the unprecedented pace and number of resignations and jobs unfilled for want of anyone willing to be on her payroll, make May waver.

What some commentators had praised as resilience outed itself as an almost pathological propensity for denial. For two years, she had repeatedly promised the UK would leave the EU on March 29. Yet on so blatantly breaking this promise as she rushed to Brussels to ask for an extension she appeared quite devoid of shame.

She continued to cling on, despite a complete collapse of Cabinet collective responsibility. She and her senior civil servants did not seem to care, no matter how damaging this was becoming to public trust in the political process and to Britain’s most precious of democracies. Here was a Prime Minister defying the normal checks and balances of an unwritten constitution that depends intrinsically on the concept and practice of ministerial responsibility and accountability.

It began to seem as though she was conspiring with a Parliament determined to destroy Brexit.

How long could she go on, we asked ourselves at The Conservative Woman. What would it take for Mrs May face her failure and stand down? How long would her execrable party let her continue while they calculated their own futures? On April 4, we began to count the days in a series we called ‘The Toppling of Theresa’. 

It took 50 days – till May 24 – for her not to resign but, under pressure from Sir Graham Brady, finally to be persuaded to announce her plan to quit Downing Street. But for his persistence it is possible she would not be going tomorrow. Whether he should have allowed her such such leeway is another matter. Would he have been so kind to a man?

So she kept the controls as well as the trappings of Number Ten. It allowed her to put her party and the country through two more months of pointless purgatory.  It ensured a ridiculously extended and increasingly unseemly leadership contest that’s given the BBC and assorted other media endless opportunity to attack this government of fools on the basis of false grievances about their whiteness and education. And finally it allowed time for the Westminster metropolitan based, globalist, ‘liberal’ and out of touch remainer elite to re-stoke No Deal Doom.

This has been the grand finale of May’s politics of destruction.  Her faux ‘perseverance’ – in fact a pathological refusal to accept when she has failed –  along with a blinkered sense of virtue and entitlement has proved deeply damaging to British democracy and to public trust. This is her dreadful legacy, along with the empty Treasury coffers resulting from her final weeks’ un-mandated, shockingly irresponsible and self-enhancing spending spree.

History will not and should not look kindly on her.

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngell
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @kathygyngelltcw on GETTR and is back on Twitter.

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