Would anybody have predicted the catastrophe that has been Theresa May’s premiership? Standing outside Downing Street during her first speech as Prime Minister, many – including me – were excited about the prospect of her leadership. She was a Remainer, yes, but I understood why that had happened at the time. She was well-liked, a ‘unifier’, someone who was fairly silent during the referendum and was careful not to polarise herself on either side of the debate.
Promising to tackle the “burning inequalities” within our society and deliver Brexit, many were duped into thinking that after David Cameron’s sudden departure, the Tories would continue to offer up political and economic stability, whilst steering us out of the European Union on the mandate that was given to them on 23rd June 2016.
Oh, how wrong I and many others were. Fast forward to 2019, and not only have we still not left the EU (despite the repeated empty assurances by May), but we are even further from any kind of consensus. The Conservative Government has resorted to begging Labour to get any semblance of Brexit through Parliament in order to save May’s failing premiership, even if it means betraying 17.4 million people voters by signing up to a customs union that ‘doesn’t sound like a customs union’.
The glittery ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ soundbite was only said ‘in abstract’, apparently. It’s clear that the Prime Minister had no intention of honouring that pledge at all. In her world, we either force through her soft Remain deal or get nothing at all. Looking back at all of her bravado three years ago and continuing today, it is clear that this Prime Minister is the mistress of hyperbole and dishonesty.
Unsurprisingly, the appetite for Theresa May to leave has grown greater than ever. Conservative activists are planning to issue a vote of no confidence in her and the 1922 committee are hot on her heels – yet she continues to cling on. She just won’t get the message. It seems she is completely adverse to any sort of criticism of her handling of the Brexit negotiations, despite the fact that damning evidence against her mounts more and more each day.
Guy Verhofstadt told the BBC documentary Brexit: Behind Closed Doors, that May’s Chief EU ‘negotiator’, Olly Robbins, said to him that he’d like to become a Belgian citizen after we left the EU. Anybody else would have been sacked, but not Olly Robbins. Worse still, in this same BBC documentary, a member of Verhofstadt’s team celebrated our surrender by crowing: “We’ve got our first colony!”
Even after the loss of more than 1,300 Conservative councillors at the local elections (surpassing the expectation of 800-1,000 seats being lost), and the 1922 Committee demanding a timetable for her departure, May had the audacity to say: “This isn’t about me”. I think Andrea Jenkyns spoke for all of us when she wondered of the Prime Minister in the House of Commons last week: ‘Why she won’t leave?’ More and more people are asking this question, and any authority the Prime Minister used to command has disintegrated. The truth is that May’s intransigence has got nothing to do with what’s good for the country or ‘delivering on the will of the people’.
Her contesting the vote of confidence in her leadership, us participating in the European election and our departure being delayed until 31st October is not about the country. This is about what’s best for May and what’s left of her political legacy. In her mind, if she can just get Brexit out of the way in the softest way possible, she can then fully embrace her domestic agenda without being plagued by Brexit and save her political career.
One failure after another, May is seemingly impeccable at worming her way out of any difficult situation by threatening the prospect of Labour, or demonising those in opposition to her agenda, all to fulfil the end of convincing us her ‘deal’ is Brexit. Only time will tell where this disastrous road ends, potentially damaging the reputation and morale of the Conservative Party irreparably.
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