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Kathy Gyngell: A career unexamined – media hand May a free pass to No 10


Was either candidate up to the job? No one asked in the frenzied political week that led up to Andrea Leadsom’s dramatic decision to withdraw from the Tory leadership contest.

The only thing that seems to have mattered to the men and women of the media in these modern identity politics times was the candidates’ gender and then the motherhood question.

In fact the columnists and commentators got so over excited by this war of the women and their clothes that they forgot to ask any of the questions they would have asked had the ladies been gents.

The knowledge that women have been gracing the benches of parliament since 1919; that Margaret Thatcher was by no means the world’s first woman Prime Minister – preceded by Mrs Bandaranaike, Mrs Gandhi and Golda Meir – might have stemmed this excitement. It didn’t. None appeared to have seen a woman politician before.

Gender trumped political ability for the investigating minds of the media. If it came as a bit of disappointment to some that neither Mrs May or Mrs Leadsom were banner-waving feminists it proved a ripe opportunity for others to put the knife in.

Yes Mrs Leadsom was thoroughly turned over for opining that her motherhood experience offered her special political insight and experience.

It was a truism and also a platitude. The only interest is that Mrs Leadsom in this mother-denying world needed to express it.

The metrosexual liberal left united in horror.

And as a result Mrs May got off very lightly indeed. With a tail wind behind her on Saturday the media establishment effected her coronation in the Sunday newspapers without one serious question having been put to her.

So here we have a future Prime Minister committed to Brexit – and presumably that means to controlling immigration – who has sailed through to the highest post in the land unquestioned on her rather relevant record in the Home Office.

What she hasn’t achieved as the longest serving Home Secretary in recent history I would venture is rather more important than her gender status

On her watch:

  • The level of migration rose to the three times the level promised by the summer of 2015.
  • Britain’s borders and coastline were left at least  as insecure as they were in 2010.  (Back in 2009, under Gordon Brown, the UK Border force had only two boats patrolling its coastline. Today the grand total is three).
  • Ever more smugglers and migrants have come to target small harbours and isolated beaches.
  • Rising numbers of people have been prosecuted for smuggling illegal immigrants into Britain in their vehicles. This, according to the normally liberal Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz, is but the tip of the iceberg: “We need to be tougher on enforcement rather than what we have done before, which is to send vans around telling people to leave the country”, he said acidly in response to these latest figures.
  • The UK’s small airfields are still allowed to go unpatrolled and the exit checks for the country’s airports and ports supposed to be in place by March 2015 are still not there.

These are some of the ‘deficits’ that Jonathan Foreman listed in an article 10 days ago, which the Telegraph in its wisdom pulled, presumably not to tarnish Mrs May’s image in the leadership run up.

This, Foreman says, must be seen in the context of “the vastly increased terrorist threat of the last few years, the onset of the migration crisis, and the emergence of smuggling networks that traffic people, drugs and arms”.

Then there are questions about Home Office decisions about visas and deportations that should have been put to Mrs May.  

Where does Britain’s backlog of asylum claims stand – since it rocketed by 70 per cent in the year up to 2014?  What about those high-profile reforms Mrs May, which a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report revealed to be totally ineffective?

What about the missed targets for processing claims by would-be refugees? If your backlog of applications awaiting even an initial decision jumped by 70 per cent to 16,273 in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013 – where is it now?

I heard on the grapevine that overwhelmed Home Office officials were just binning visa applications they were so inundated. Is that the case?

And what about the collapse of the one billion pound eBorders IT system, designed to streamline the system that failed, leaving officials struggling with an archaic one unsuited to the huge new numbers to be processed?

How do you sleep at night?

And the final question I want to ask is how much of this can we put down to your ineptitude and how much to the constraints our membership of the EU?

If it is the EU that you blame, how come then did you decide to plump for the Remain camp and not Leave so that you could take back control of your borders?

If it is not the EU’s fault, but yours, how can we be sure you have the (much vaunted) competence to lead us out of Europe and control immigration?

Oh, I nearly forgot, we can leave police reform (or no police reform) for another time but what about immigration. Are you for it (like Dan Hannan) or against it (like Liam Fox)? You didn’t mention it all in your speech yesterday. I wonder why.

(Image: FCO)

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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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