Monday, April 15, 2024
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We’ve never had a worse Tory PM


THERESA May has promised to step down as premier. Good riddance. She should never have been prime minister in the first place.

She achieved nothing in politics except fence-sitting, U-turns, and talking out of both sides of her face.

She rose to the top of a party she had defamed as the ‘nasty party’ (falsely claiming this was a term in general use). In July 2016, she promised to lead a government committed to implementing Brexit despite having campaigned to Remain. She promised ‘strong and stable leadership’, then procrastinated for eight months before petitioning to leave the EU. She claimed to be working out her negotiating position but infamously could never answer the question, ‘What do you want?’ She called a general election to confirm her leadership in June 2017, but lost her working majority. Yet she neither resigned nor changed tack. She doubled-down, retrenched, learnt from nothing, and repeated her mistakes – most obviously by her re-offering her EU Withdrawal Agreement while pretending that it could not be changed, was the ‘best deal’, and delivered on the referendum and her manifesto commitments.

She had no principles except platitudes (‘building a country that works for everybody’) and circularities (‘Brexit means Brexit’), no policies except as stolen from the opposition (in recent months, she was negotiating with the Labour Party instead of her own party), no constituency except the mainstream media (hence she answered their questions about social justice instead of the voters’ concerns about immigration and sovereignty), no commitments beyond the elite’s fashions (the final straw for Cabinet was her adoption of a second referendum).

She made herself available to be photographed as a humble church-goer every Sunday, but was chronically dishonest, disloyal, unreliable and selfish. Her friends’ claims about her (patriotic, dedicated, hard-working) are revealing for being basic yet still blatantly untrue. She was chronically clueless, robotic, scripted, remote, contradictory, and unlearning. Hence, she deserved the nicknames ‘Treason May’, ‘Doormat May’ and ‘the Maybot’. Whatever redeemed her other roles, she had no redeeming qualities as premier.

She was ultimately prepared to deliver Remain and spin it as Brexit, sacrifice Britain and declare her premiership a success, and ruin the Conservative Party to stay in power. Not even her Withdrawal Agreement, on which she pinned her legacy, was honesty titled. It was a transition agreement. Yet she even called it a ‘deal’, and she claimed that it would restore sovereignty, take control of borders, end EU jurisdiction, end membership fees, preserve the British Union and improve the economy.

She clung to power despite repeated confirmations of her incapacity. She surrounded herself with yes-men and unqualified appointees. She kept her Cabinet in the dark while she took on personal diplomatic missions. She put unelected party hacks and civil servants of her own fancy in charge of tasks that should be ministerial (such as negotiating Brexit). She clung to senseless and failed policies. She misled Cabinet and the public about her intentions. She procrastinated, avoided, and misrepresented. She reversed every policy, and betrayed every partner. Nobody could trust her, so she could not reach any more agreements, yet she always claimed she was one more spin away from consensus. Can we even trust that she won’t U-turn on her departure?

I say this with no wisdom after the fact: She was bottom of my list of candidates in 2016. I have publicly called on her to go repeatedly since 2017. The question is not whether she was a bad premier, but whether she was the worst?

Theresa May’s incapacity was obvious long before Brexit, because May wasn’t just a fake Brexiteer, she was a fake Conservative. She holds more in common with the Labour premiers – who invariable weaken the economy, centralise the executive, ignore public will, politicise the civil service, reward the slackers and skivers, punish the creators and rule-followers, raise public spending, raise taxes, lose control of law and order, lose control of immigration, pour money into the NHS while ignoring outcomes, damage Britain’s special relationship with the US, put Russian and Chinese investment before security, put the EU before British sovereignty, and put irresponsibility before democratic accountability.

Given time, she would have done as much damage to this country as Tony Blair. Amazingly, David Cameron and Theresa May (as his party chairwoman) did not differentiate the Conservative Party but remade it in New Labour’s image.

Now let’s compare the nine previous Conservative premiers, stretching back more than eighty years. Theresa May combines the worst of each: Neville Chamberlain’s egocentrism, Winston Churchill’s mania, Anthony Eden’s cycle of indecisiveness and recklessness, Harold Macmillan’s fuzziness, Alec Douglas-Home’s unwillingness to learn, Ted Heath’s unadmitted socialism, Margaret Thatcher’s isolation, John Major’s passive-aggressiveness, and David Cameron’s vacuousness.

May exhibits none of their qualities, except perhaps Churchill’s and Thatcher’s stubbornness, which she turned into a vice – sticking to bad decisions and proposals and never knowing what is right.

At the time of her progress to the top of the Conservative Party and government in July 2016, she stoked comparisons with Thatcher, which were natural given shared gender. However, whereas Thatcher rose against the Parliamentary party’s misgivings, May was anointed by the Parliamentary party without a fair contest; whereas Thatcher fought misogyny but made nothing of it, May benefited from her party’s affirmative action, then spread hearsay that the men around her had let her down; whereas Thatcher explained the superiority of conservatism to an electorate and elite that had forgotten it, May parroted social justice and cultural Marxism; whereas Thatcher won three working majorities, May won none; whereas Thatcher defeated the socialist consensus, May embraced the progressive consensus; whereas Thatcher fought the EU-phile majority in her Parliamentary party, May indulged it; whereas Thatcher defeated several competent opposition leaders, May has faced only scruffy inarticulate Marxists.

Given her total failure at everything despite the privileges bestowed by an indulgent Parliamentary Party and incompetent opposition, I declare May the least capable Conservative premier ever.

The next question becomes: Is the Parliamentary Conservative Party going to admit she was its worst leader, break the mould, and choose a true conservative leader of appeal to the wider membership and the majority of voters (a la Thatcher) or choose another fake conservative of appeal only to the elite? The noises so far suggest the latter.

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Bruce Newsome
Bruce Newsome
Bruce Newsome is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas Permian Basin. He is also the author of the anti-woke satire "The Dark Side of Sunshine" (Perseublishing, 2020).

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