If you thought Theresa May was tone-deaf and unresponsive during the actual election campaign, then that’s nothing on her performance since.
Following her seriously reduced circumstances I initially thought it was right for her to continue in office. The electoral arithmetic suggested it as the only viable option, at least until the parliamentary circumstances changed. She could have chosen to take on board the disastrous result that her cavalier election calling produced and govern as a minority leader but with significant consultation with other parties on Brexit. That her own Brexit stance – which has been irredeemably, if unilluminatingly of the “hard” variety – would need modifying seemed evident too.
Then came the day after. The prime minister’s speech outside Downing Street was one of the most misjudged exercises I have come across. She made no reference at all to the lamentable election result. She simply announced she would be forming a new government, and for good measure she replaced the old “strong and stable” with the word “certainty”.
I began to wonder if somehow she had been kept isolated from the election results. It was a performance of astonishing misjudgement and ineptitude. Compare it with David Cameron’s eloquent and moving “mea culpa” after the referendum. So utterly disconnected was her speech that she had to follow it up with a hurriedly organised television interview in order to “apologise” to all of the Tory MPs who had lost their seats thanks to her calamitous campaign.
More than anything else, this speech captured exactly why Mrs. May must not be allowed to carry on as prime minister. The speech bespoke an absolute determination to ignore any circumstances that don’t suit her. It shed light on Mrs. May’s utter inflexibility. Here was someone who was so myopic and incapable that she couldn’t even acknowledge the earth-shaking circumstances that everyone else was talking about and which had brought her to this pass in the first place. She couldn’t move from her script. She couldn’t develop a quick response to her massively changed circumstances. She couldn’t find it within herself to express any sort of empathetic understanding to her disappointed supporters and allies.
And if she couldn’t do this simple task, part of the basic toolbox of political leadership, then how on earth could we expect her to manage the infinitely more challenging, unpredictable and difficult Brexit negotiations?
I thought originally that Theresa May should stay and provide some continuity in difficult times, even if those times were largely of her own creation.
Now it seems to me that if we are to have any chance of a successful start to our increasingly unwanted and unloved Brexit negotiations, then Theresa May has to be replaced immediately. All those foolish Tories who think she will be able to open such negotiations with imagination and flexibility, who have you been listening to? For Theresa May, alarmingly and bizarrely, “nothing has changed”. This is a woman who can row back on a policy and claim it is the same one. That level of delusion has now been extended to some sort of weird understanding of the election that suggests it has said nothing of value to her.
The Tory Party may be in a bind because of the lack of top rate talent in its upper echelons, but at the moment almost anyone – obviously excluding Liam Fox – would be better than the delsuional, mad force currently in charge. Instead of ringing their hands and moaning about her advisers, Tory MPs should step up to the moment and actually try and serve their country. And they should do it by providing new and better leadership. If they do, in time we might forgive them for the Mayist aberration.