CREDIT where credit’s due. In contrast to her usual Maybot-style delivery of leaden, uninspiring content, Theresa May’s speech, a rightly scathing criticism of several aspects of the Government’s second Covid lockdown, in last Wednesday’s Commons debate was uncharacteristically good.
Its impact was enhanced by current PM Boris Johnson’s somewhat boorish reaction to it. By ostentatiously walking out of the chamber, to the audible disapproval of his MPs, just as his predecessor began to speak, Johnson not only demonstrated a puerile petulance but demeaned both himself and his office.
He later apologised, pleading the need to attend a meeting. Well, maybe. All the same, and though I’m no fan of May, she is a former PM, albeit an especially dire one, so was surely entitled to be listened to for four minutes by the present incumbent, if only out of courtesy.
Anyway, near-universal acclaim, some of it verging on hyperbole, greeted May’s speech. According to the Daily Telegraph’s chief political correspondent, it was a case of ‘May leads the charge’ against Johnson’s second coronavirus lockdown.
She had become the unlikely ‘Joan of Arc of lockdown scepticism’ in the eyes even of former Brexit Party MEP Alexandra Phillips, who was at least discreet enough not to mention that Jeanne d’Arc ended up taken prisoner by her own side before being burned at the stake by the English.
Prominent and respected political tweeters were effusive in their praise.
But, watching and listening to May’s speech live, I had some niggling doubts, and reading it later on Hansard found myself starting to wonder: just where had this ostensibly quasi-libertarian Theresa May, suddenly concerned about the loss of Britons’ liberty as a result of Lockdown 2.0, and the Johnson administration’s lack of transparency, sprung from?
‘The Government today making it illegal to conduct an act of public worship . . . sets a precedent that could be misused by a Government in future with the worst of intentions.’
Very true. But was this the same Theresa May who, as a reluctant-Brexiteer PM, unnecessarily pledged to keep the UK within the scope of the illiberal, authoritarian European Arrest Warrant despite its jurisdiction expiring on Brexit?
Was it the same Theresa May who, as a closet-Remainer Home Secretary for most of the relevant period, had presided over the UK executing more EAWs than any other EU country?
‘For many people it looks as though the figures are being chosen to support the policy, rather than the policy being based on the figures. There is one set of data that has not been available throughout.’
Also true. But was this valid criticism about the lack of both published data and transparency really coming from the same Theresa May who, again as that reluctant-Brexiter PM, presided over the No 10 covert operation to collude with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her infamous Chequers Plan for an ultra-lite BRINO, keeping it secret from her Cabinet, the Brexit Department, her MPs, her party and the British public, and bounced it on to her Cabinet on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis with barely an hour’s notice?
Were we really seeing a changed Theresa May? No, we weren’t. Because at 10.30am last Wednesday, a mere 3 hours 8 minutes before she rose to speak in the Commons at 1.38pm, May had tweeted thus:
This, I suggest, was and is the authentic voice of Theresa May and the one with which we’re more familiar. Her instinctive reverence for unaccountable supranationalist bureaucracy self-insulated from the need to secure democratic consent. Her disregard for the astronomical cost to Western economies, energy users, and taxpayers of a predicted reduction in temperatures of a mere 0.05°C by 2100.
Her arrogant presumption that truth on ‘climate change’ is something to be negotiated via political consensus rather than discovered by strict adherence to scientific method. Her delusion that challenges like a global pandemic and economic downturn, burgeoning government deficits and debt, and Islamist-jihadist terrorism somehow pale into relative insignificance alongside a gentle 200-300 year recovery in temperatures from the nadir of the Little Ice Age.
So why the quite remarkable contrast between the allegiance to anti-democratic globalism confirmed by May’s 10.30am tweet and her professed deep concern for personal liberty and government transparency expressed in her 1.38pm Commons speech? Let me suggest a two-word solution: Boris Johnson.
I suspect May’s Commons criticisms, entirely valid though they conveniently were in context, originated not so much from principle or genuine ideological conviction as from a long-simmering personal pique at her 2019 forced removal from office, which she still appears to think was an unconscionable injustice and thus still has scores to settle.
Hell, it would seem, still hath no fury like a former PM scorned.