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The toppling of Theresa: Day 43


I WILL believe it when I see it. I am referring of course to Theresa May’s putative resignation as Prime Minister, which has led the news since yesterday, and is being reported by betting firms as though it had already happened.

The announcement, such as it was, came not from Number Ten or Kim May’s own lips but from those of the chairman of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady.

Here is exactly what he said:

Listen carefully. Mrs May has not tendered her resignation. She has agreed to discuss a timetable for a leadership election with Sir Graham in two weeks. No commitment to its start date or end date. From Number Ten all that has been acknowledged is that if the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is defeated, the pressure for Mrs May to go immediately will inevitably ratchet up.

A source said: ‘She would have to say, “This is how I envisage the timetable for a leadership election happening and there would have to be some sort of agreement about that”.

The bottom line yet again is that Mrs May has resisted calls for her to name the date of her departure from Number Ten. Worse, the wording of her agreement with Sir Graham could also be taken to imply that if her wretched WA Bill is somehow passed, she would interpret it as a vindication and stay.

Don’t rule it out.

So while everything might appear to have changed, nothing has been concluded. No firm date has been set for Theresa May’s departure as party leader, let alone as PM. And once again the ’22 didn’t have the gumption to tell her to her face to go.

Also, as Paul Goodman comments this morning: ‘We cannot even be certain that a Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be presented to Parliament, let alone that it will have its Second Reading soon after the Whitsun recess: after all, the Government has reneged on commitments to hold Brexit votes before.’

What a contrast to the ten days it took the Tories to topple Margaret Thatcher.

It’s well over a quarter of a century ago that the longest-serving premier of the 20th century was unceremoniously booted out by her ungrateful party. And that after one of the most successful and radical premierships in history – winning a war against the odds, taking on the unions and turning round the economy. It’s worth comparing it with the current soap opera.

Margaret Thatcher, in contrast to May, gave ministers the opportunity to tell her, one by one, that she was losing support, without their facing the peer pressure of her more loyal colleagues for her to stay. Yet now, the time for brutal action with a disastrously head-in-the-sand and stubborn PM, the Tories continue to let this head girl who refuses to admit her year is out set the terms.

The differences are dramatic.

Again, though her Cabinet did not behave honourably, Mrs Thatcher did. She did not closet herself with civil servants and advisers set on working out how she could outwit her opponents. She listened to Lord Wakeham, who advocated the process that would allow her Cabinet to speak their minds most honestly to her. She agreed. What a lady. And when she heard their views she tendered her resignation to the Queen. No begging, no manipulation, no weasel words. Imagine Mrs Thatcher tolerating such excuses as given by one MP present at the 1922 meeting that ‘she is doing her level best to deliver things and people are not going along with her’.

Thatcher never failed to recognise what was her responsibility or where the buck stopped. Damage limitation was needed, and she knew that only she could limit that damage. This concept, to the teary and ever-diminished Mrs May, who insists on being allowed to re-sit the exam she has already failed three times to keep her dream alive, is unknown.

It reflects the profound cultural change we have undergone in this 25 years to a set of mores that is fundamentally dishonest, reflected in the emergence of the pernicious culture of victimhood that holds such sway over Mrs May herself. At a fundamental level it is the explanation why, once again, despite the Telegraph’s confident headlines, she has been allowed to buy herself more time.

That’s why at TCW we continue to count the days to her toppling.

Today is Day 43 . . .

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Edited by Kathy Gyngell

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