Like or loathe them, and agree or disagree with their ideology or not, the likes of Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Tony Blair were leaders – Theresa May is not. She is no better than a jumped up middle manager, with no coherent vision for Britain post-Brexit.
Some will express feelings of sympathy towards her, though she does little to deserve such sentiments. Yes, she is in an almost impossible situation, but this is not entirely circumstantial – it is also of her own making. From pandering to the hard-right of her own party, refusing to keep the likes of Boris Johnson on message, to repeating endless soundbites but not laying down any detail about her Brexit stance while the EU produces detailed documents and repeatedly asks her what she wants. But her gravest error, calling a general election she didn’t need to call, running perhaps the most incompetent campaign in modern history, which left Tory supporters aghast and alienated everyone else, including those of more mature years who make up the Conservative’s voter base.
The problems May faces may be unusually testing, but there really is no excuse for dealing with them in her chosen manner – not really dealing with them at all, except when it is too late. She seems to be trying to please everyone, by not saying too much and keeping everything on the table – but consequently is letting the country down as we head closer and closer to the cliff edge.
There is a need to unite the country, after a divisive referendum campaign: but May is left helplessly pleading for unity having only practiced division. She unilaterally blocked a guarantee of EU citizens’ rights, she sought to block Britain’s sovereign parliament from voting on whether to trigger Article 50, cut a remorseless deal with the DUP, and the NHS and other public services are still being drained of resources, despite the leave campaign promising higher spending.
May did offer a pinch of clarity in her recent speech at London’s Mansion House. She promised to be “straight with people” and face up to the “hard facts” of Brexit, including that leaving the single market will mean the UK and EU enjoy less access to each other’s markets. This is a departure from the delusional having our cake and eating it approach that her government have so far been tied to. But the fact that it has taken almost a year since invoking Article 50 to set out such a basic position is staggering.
Her repeated mantra, just “Getting on with the job” is fine for middle managers, but negotiating an exit from the European Union, which no country has ever attempted before, requires a little more than this – it requires bold vision. Margaret Thatcher had her capitalist ideology and her deep-rooted hatred of trade unions. Tony Blair had his attachment to American power, and a determination to modernise Britain. May has “Getting on with the job” – a way of avoiding the big ideas.
If you are heading a government, now more than ever, you must stand for something: a set of ideals and an idea of what society should be like. May has neither of these. But then again, middle managers rarely need them. May stands for May being in power, and she will do and say whatever she feels will sustain her position.
Most importantly Theresa May’s government doesn’t have a coherent set of demands to put to the European Union, and time is running out.
Giving speeches full of nothing but empty words is putting the livelihood of the citizens of this country at risk. “Phrases, generalisations and platitudes” won’t make a deal more likely, warned former deputy prime minister Michael Hesseltine. Hiding away from issues and big decisions will not make them go away.
Step aside Mrs. May, before through indecision you lead us off the edge of the cliff.