Kathy Gyngell: Masterful May is now a Maggie in the making

“I’m not going to be calling a snap election. I’ve been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020."

The BBC and other commentators have been all over Mrs May’s words of January on the Andrew Marr Show like a rash. This was all a dumbstruck Martha Kearney on the World at One yesterday could find to criticise.

You would be forgiven for believing they weren’t versed in the arts of the profession they spend their own professional careers following.

So what? A week in politics is a short time, they should know. And it’s taken just three short weeks since she triggered Article 50 to come to see that Brexit could prove a very long operation. As Austin Mitchell put it yesterday, escaping from Colditz is beginning to look like a doddle by comparison.

She is a politician and, as Guido Fawkes put it, ‘a player’ after all. But wasn’t that self-evident after the referendum when the Notting Hill set, rocked by Michael Gove refusing to play ball as the joker in the pack any longer, collapsed like a pack of cards in front of her. There is no one cannier than a quiet operator.

There was always a case for her to go to the electorate and establish her own mandate. I said so from the start. Neither her Conservative colleagues nor the country would have thanked her for missing the best chance she might ever get of dispatching the hard Left before it became a real problem.

Why wouldn’t she take full advantage of her glorious opinion polls and unique opportunity to turn a wafer-thin Conservative majority into some towering Commons authority? Conservative 'Remainers' can neither vote for Corbyn or Ukip. Her decision demonstrates a certainty and steel that she was still lacking – in my view– at the time of the Tory conference. Well she has demonstrated it now, nine confident months later. She has played her political cards brilliantly, showing a spine of steel to match her metal-tipped shoes.

Since the conference she has grown in stature as PM, leaving the men around her looking like minnows – not least the diminished, inarticulate and immature sounding Boris Johnson, who she set up, figuratively as well as literally, in the Foreign Office.

She has stood her ground in her support for the US President against the BBC’s whipped up anti-Trump hysteria; she has kept her word and triggered Article 50, despite an overweening Supreme Court judgement; she has gone confidently on to set out her stall with a truculent and ungracious EU, putting the destructive Scottish First Minister back in her box at one and the same time. While there are a host of issues in her centre-left domestic policy agenda that send the TCW editors into spasms - one that we will continue to challenge and question - we cannot fault her political leadership.

As if to underline her ‘don’t mess with me – anyone’ message comes her 'shock and awe' call for an election and a direct appeal to the electorate to govern as she will. Brilliant for its dramatic timing, it now looks as though she has been building up to it for a time.

If it says one thing to her party, to the EU negotiators, and Nicola Sturgeon alike it is: ‘I won’t be bullied and I am taking no prisoners. I will not need to’. You have to admire it. I do.

For what better way to keep the ‘awkward’ squads on the Left and the Right of her party in line? If the Brexit process ends up softer on immigration than the Right and indeed the electorate might like, then she can fall back on her mandate. If it ends up with GB PLC walking away into a new world of free trade and bilateral deals and uncertainty she will still have a mandate. Whichever, winning the election with a larger majority gives her the ultimate mandate to deliver Brexit her way, whatever that turns out to be.

The devil of the Brexit detail should, of course, be in the manifesto, but I bet it won’t be. ‘It is too soon’ we will be told, again. She has got us by the short hairs, that is for sure. This omission is no more going to make 'remainer' Tories vote for Corbyn’s Labour than it will make Ukip’s Labour recruits return to their party of origin. Corbyn is the Labour Party’s gift to Mrs May that keeps on giving.

And whichever of these camps you might be in dear reader, wouldn’t you rather put your money on the vicar’s daughter than the only other alternative – the LibDems led by tiny Tim?

Clever Mrs May, I predict, now has many years to go before either set of malcontents in her divided party plot another night of the long knives to end her leadership. Mrs Thatcher managed 15 years – a post-war record.

She may not be Mrs Thatcher yet, but she has categorically taken command. But as with Mrs Thatcher there will be a price to pay – the one that the BBC exacts. The newly unashamed champion of the Remainers’ cause will pursue their BBC duty, as Nick Robinson sees it, to focus on every problem Brexit might threaten. That they can do while keeping perfect party political balance. How Mrs May squares up to that remains to be seen.

(Image: State Department)

Kathy Gyngell

  • Bik Byro

    In a similar way that “a camel is a horse designed by a committee” we were, under the current circumstances, in serious danger of getting “a Brexit designed by a committee”

    With a decent majority in the HOC we hopefully can at least get away from that risk.

  • Colkitto03

    For the second time in a year the MSM and the Political classes are faced with the people getting a say! This is not how is was meant to be!
    You cant keep the Proles in place if you keep letting them have a say.
    The MSM have desperately been trying to create a ‘people are tired of elections’ narrative for the last 24 hours.
    Well done Prime Minister May.

    • choccycobnobs

      I am tired of people being tired of elections.

      • John C

        I am tired of the c!nts at the BBC.

    • Andy

      It really is dispicable behaviour on Mrs May’s part.

      • Colkitto03

        I know, you would think she believes she is a servant of the people, or something crazy like that!

        • Andy

          I know. How dare she ! I might write her a letter.

  • I’ll be voting for Labour.

    • Bik Byro

      Well done dearie. Would you like a lollipop?

      • Yes please.

      • choccycobnobs

        You would probably be better off offering him a pen and a crash course on where to put his X.

        • TheRightToArmBears

          Not a glass of whisky and a revolver?

          • choccycobnobs

            I happily bow to your superior suggestion as long as it is a cheap blended whisky. We can but pray.

          • TheRightToArmBears

            I would suggest that you make sure he has instructions on which side of the head each item should be held.

          • choccycobnobs

            Nice one

    • Little Black Censored

      Well, there’s a surprise!

    • Andy

      And may the Lord have Mercy upon your Soul. Amen.

      • Did you mean to sound like a member of a weird religious cult?

        • John C

          Did you?

    • John C

      Well, yes, stupidity tends to be terminal.

      • Calling me stupid in not a strong enough political argument to change my vote to … what?

        • John C

          You won’t understand political arguments, thicko.

  • Groan

    I agree she is looking more and more like a PM not least because she is enigmatic compared to the gushing Tony and media tart Dave. I believe she’s not going to get into any telly debate. wise move to avoid the inevitable game show trivialisation. All in all I suspect people want someone who behaves like the leader of a Country rather than a chat show. Well my 10 peneth is just to remind conservatives not to take things for granted. There is still a job to do to get Ukip and brexiting Labour voters to support Conservatives. There have been a few “upsets” in recent years and just as the pundits have been comprehensively wrong recently they may be so this time too.
    Particularly as this gives a second bit of the cherry to the institutions so shocked by a Tory victory and then Brexit.
    I expect to see the CPS try to stitch up the Tory Party. Assisted by the Police (who after all stitched up a minister) the public service unions to wade in with as much oomph as they can muster to derail this still pretty timid public funding cuts. Add in the Quangos and top it off with her majesties disloyal opposition, the BBC. No I suspect this will bring out all the forces of reaction.
    So strange that the Conservatives go into this as the radical force with the establishment ranged against it! It ain’t going to be an easy ride.

  • Shazza

    I agree that Mrs May is becoming more and more impressive and is proving to be a masterful chess player.

    However, IMO, her flaw is her total denial as to the true nature and ambition of the RoP as demonstrated by her enthusiastic support for Sharia within the muslim community and her comments in the HoC post the Westminster Bridge attack.

    This is potentially a fatal flaw – I sincerely hope I am wrong but unless the elephant in the room is acknowledged, our Judeo Christian civilisation is doomed.

    • Partridge

      And not forgetting her ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ support for that evil ideology! This election, though, will be all about leaving the EU, for which, as Nigel Farage pointed out last year, even a hard Brexit with no deal at all will be far better than the EU membership we have endured over the years. But I’m beginning to have some confidence in Theresa May’s ability to change tack when required, so feminists and doctrinal Muslims should beware. As for the Labour-LibDem-Green-student activists, when Theresa wins her landslide victory, just watch them take to the streets, more self-righteously deluded and violent and extreme than ever.

      • fenellastrange

        “Labour-LibDem-Green-student activists” – oh yes, they’ll be out there, screaming ‘It’s not fair’ and throwing their toys out of the pram with every tantrum solemnly and respectfully recorded and reported by the bbc.

  • Mike Fowle

    Well, I didn’t see that coming! I have commented on other threads that she wouldn’t call an election because of the fixed term Parliament Act and the boundary commission adjustments, and also because people don’t like “unnecessary” elections, but if they can be convinced that it is a necessary step, (and the Tories are not too triumphalist – remember Kinnock in 1992) it could be marvellous news. I think it’s pretty courageous.

  • Views that Theresa May has actually expressed include workers’ and consumers’ representation in corporate governance, shareholders’ control over executive pay, restrictions on pay differentials within companies, an investment-based Industrial Strategy and infrastructure programme, greatly increased housebuilding, action against tax avoidance, a ban on public contracts for tax-avoiding companies, a cap on energy prices, banning or greatly restricting foreign takeovers, and a ban on unpaid internships.

    Two years ago, the only politicians advocating all but one of those were Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, while the energy price cap, proposed by Ed Miliband, was being screamed down by the people who wish that they themselves were still running the Labour Party, something that they have not now done for as long as Tony Blair was ever Prime Minister. These days, though, such are the policies even of the person who can be elected unopposed as Leader of the Conservative Party.

    Moreover, and very much unlike Corbyn or McDonnell (but very much like Thatcher, for all her bluster and that of her cultists), she positively prides herself that it is going to declare the entire acquis communautaire to be the law of this land even though there is to be no further British role in determining its content. Forget the idea that it will be “only up to 2019”. That cannot be made to work. The ridiculously misnamed Great Repeal Bill will turn the United Kingdom into a colony of the European Union.

    • Colkitto03

      As usual we don’t agree with much on much! But I have just watched the 6.00pm news on the BBC. At the end I asked my wife and son ‘how biased was that’? They both knew what I meant. The BBC will simply not give Corbyn a fair chance. As a right winger I like to think I stand up for fair play. The BBC will not be happy until he is gone. This is not good enough for a state broadcaster. This should worry all of us.

      • John C

        The BBC is corrupt. End of.

        • Tethys


  • choccycobnobs

    In other news, I laughed at that Miller bint resorting to crowdfunding to campaign for election of Europhile MPs. She must be getting short of the readies.

    • paul parmenter

      Didn’t she tell us that she did not want to derail Brexit, she merely wanted to establish the authority of Parliament over government? It sounded like a lie then, and now it is proven to be so.

  • TheRightToArmBears

    This is the first decision she has made. She made no decisions during her six years as Home Secretary. She made no decision to cut through the red tape and just put any foreign criminal on a plane.

    She is no Maggie. Look at her photo and tell me you see leadership in that face.

  • alecto

    “But as with Mrs Thatcher there will be a price to pay – the one that the
    BBC exacts. The newly unashamed champion of the Remainers’ cause will
    pursue their BBC duty, as Nick Robinson sees it, to focus on every
    problem Brexit might threaten. That they can do while
    keeping perfect party political balance. How Mrs May squares up to that
    remains to be seen.”

    Mrs May can square up to the BBC by making it subcription only – that should sort them out!

    • TheRightToArmBears

      She’s had six years in which to suggest that in cabinet.
      I don’t think she is going to upset her pets.

    • John Thomas

      ” …subscription only” – yes, but will she do this?

      • Bosanova

        If ever there was an election where she could safely put it in her manifesto it is this one. I hope she does, but expect she won’t. Still, she seems in the mood for surprising us, so fingers crossed…
        Even the left don’t trust the BBC at the moment since they’re so anti-Jezzer. It is an excellent opportunity to end the BBC monopoly.

        • John C

          She doesn’t have the balls.

  • James

    Interesting fantasy piece…or is it perhaps satire?

    Make no mistake, what she offers is another five years of the grey collectivist sludge that has smothered this country since at least 1990.

    Enterprise? Not likely.

    Freedom? Definitely not.

    Sound money? Never.

    Orwell’s 1984? The handbook; not a warning.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      Leadership? No sign so far.

      • James

        And I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

        Mrs May has declined to take part in any TV debates for a very good reason.

    • John C

      Unlimited enrichment immigration? Check.

  • John C

    “Masterful May is now a Maggie in the making” – quite possibly the stupidest sentence on the Internet.

    • macukguy

      May is a Liberal, Thatcher was a Conservative.

      • Essexman

        Another stupid comment

      • Tethys

        Thatcher worked to increase tobacco sales caring nothing about the consequences.

      • John C

        You don’t know what the word ‘liberal’ means.

    • paul parmenter

      Come come now John, I am sure that with some reflection you would want to modify that suggestion. Just think about some of the things you have read on the internet…

      But I take your underlying point. I think May is a very long way from turfing Wonder Woman off her pedestal and taking her place. Calling an election now is not exactly a masterstroke and not exactly original thinking, considering how many people have been prodding her in that direction for quite some time. Given her fragile majority, the shambolic state of the Labour party, and the very real threat from all the fiercely determined Brexit-wreckers from north to south and all points in between, including her own back bench, I think her hand is forced anyway; or if not, it is just another example of opportunism.

      Maybe nothing wrong with that, opportunism is a required characteristic of anyone wanting to get anywhere in politics. But that is all it is, and certainly no indication of any kind of exceptional ability or tactical brilliance. If she gets her 100-seat majority, she will no doubt appear, and claim to be, a titan of the modern era. For a little while at least, until we find out what she is really made of.

      But if it falls apart and we get a hung parliament that is paralysed over Brexit and everything else, or even the nightmare of some kind of Lab/LibDem/SNP coalition that drags us screaming over the cliff, she will go down as a disaster.

      Interesting times.

      • John C

        Am I not allowed even a little rhetorical hyperbole? 🙂

        We already know what she is made of: she is not exactly a newcomer. I disagree that her hand was forced. She has a working majority, the opposition is confused and largely insane, she has at least the skill to have overcome the wrecking amendments thus far, and after a long period of pathetic dithering she delivered the divorce papers to the EU.

        I don’t believe she’ll have a 100-seat majority, and she is risking the future of the country for at least the next generation (actually, I think we are screwed either way as a civilised Western nation, but that’s another issue). She has made a stupid beginner’s error, allowing herself to be stampeded into what could well be a disaster, but I expected nothing else from this creature.

  • Like I said in another forum, May has real political savvy. Now if she would bring us closer to true conservatism, I should be glad.

  • Fern

    I suspect Theresa May’s hand was forced by the prospect of a couple of dozen Tory MPs facing criminal changes because of alleged electoral expenses infringements. It’s depressing that Kathy Gyngell’s hagiography didn’t actually look at her record as Home Secretary and her behaviour during the run-up to the Brexit vote where she was careful to adopt no real position. Canny for sure but principled? I think not. I am no admirer of the Iron Lady but Thatcher was a conviction politician – May, not so much.