9 June 2017

Theresa May must go – and go now


Theresa May must resign. I know, there’s some grim parody of a government being hawked from the streets of Downing Street — a Strong-and-Stable coalition of Tories and Ulster Unionists of one stripe or another — but it isn’t just incoherent of Theresa May (who fought against such coalitions of chaos, remember) to insist on being our Prime Minister, despite the election result. It’s an obscenity.

Let’s count the ways Theresa May has ruined Britain and the Conservative Party. She took a Tory majority delivered by David Cameron just two years ago and destroyed it, ending the careers of fine parliamentarians such as Ben Gummer, Jane Ellison and Gavin Barwell in the process.

She lost this general election — which she didn’t need to hold — against the most disgusting man ever to lead the Labour Party.

By losing to Corbyn — because not crushing his insidious politics is to lose to it — she has made Britain more extreme, because Corbynism is now the default position of the Left. Just look at all those former Corbyn Labour critics, mincing on about how much they suddenly love their Dear Leader (“for ever”, as Orwell would say. The Corbyn jackboot will crush down on their eager Blairite faces for ever.)

She’s made Brexit more difficult to achieve, if possible at all — Parliament is now even less aligned with the Referendum result than it was before — and moved the Conservative Party significantly backwards. Not bad for just over a year in the job! But still she stands in Downing Street and chunters on, as though she’s won.

Presumably her Spads wrote that speech for her — Nick and Fiona control everything the Prime Minister does, and have done from day one. That public humiliation of Cameron-supporting ministers — for example, replacing the intellectual reformer Michael Gove with the entity known as Liz Truss, and jerking George Osborne around before dismissing him — that wasn’t an accident. It was all part of the Theresa/Nick/Fiona approach to politics: explain nothing. Promise nothing. Deliver nothing.

When I worked for Greg Clark, his Communities & Local Government ministry shared a building with Theresa May’s Home Office. I used to joke about how “Theresa May” didn’t actually exist, but was just some cement creature; an icon carved in stone, that her Spads would wheel into meetings to glare silently at officials, until after an hour of embarrassed fumbling they’d agree to turn the Spads’ ideas into policy.

At least, I thought I was joking. It turned out that beneath that mask of granite lies a brain of pure stone, as the horror show of this election made clear. Watching the cement creature being wheeled around the country to glare at party activists, while voters were kept well back behind the tape (“Sorry mate, you’re not on Nick’s list”), you could feel the Tory majority leaching away.

Compare that with the Scottish Tory experience. Ruth Davidson never spouts cliches, is the opposite of a caricature, and has just won seat after seat from the SNP, including those of their Westminster leader Angus Robertson, as well as the ghastly Alex Salmond’s.

Ruth’s not a Westminster MP, so she cannot become leader of the national party — though can there be any doubt that were matters otherwise, she would be? She underlines the fact that it isn’t actually necessary for Conservatives to lose. Imagine what Ruth Davidson would have done to Jeremy Corbyn.

What would it take to chisel some doubt into Theresa May’s self-belief? Watching her outside No 10, I struggled to hear the robotic intonation of an inappropriate speech over the sound of the news helicopters’ buzzing above her head.

Then it was reported that Labour had taken Kensington and reality saved me from strangling any more metaphors. It hurts to be disloyal – why should you care about that, I know, but I want to be as honest as possible today.  It hurts to be disloyal to my party’s leader, but Theresa May should go.

Graeme Archer is a political commentator and statistician