Theresa must go. That is the conclusion I’ve come to after a weekend of her feeble defence, and a careful consideration of the errors made by the Conservative Party that have led us to here.
It is no secret that I didn’t think she was up to being Prime Minister when she was effectively crowned thus in the Tory leadership election last year, after David Cameron cut and run. Far from an “Anyone but Boris” campaign, I’d have backed anyone but Theresa. Her endless thirst for the role had led her to make poor policy decisions as Home Secretary, and her antipathy towards Human Rights, which should have excluded her from the role, was aimed at keeping the right wing of the party on side; she was, after all, Party Chairman under Iain Duncan Smith, when the Tory Party was at its most toxic.
Theresa’s very visible flaws have become glaringly obvious now she has called an election she didn’t need to, campaigned appallingly badly, and then effectively enhanced a proto-Communist, terrorist appeasing, Iranian and Russian supporting neophyte in Jeremy Corbyn as Opposition Leader.
Worse, she has retoxified the Tory Party, by hitching the majority wagon to the vagaries of the Democratic Unionists, a party of Christian fundamentalists whose beliefs are more in line with the US Republican Party, not a modern democratic right wing party. Trump would not seem to be bonkers in comparison to some of the DUP. Even their relatively presentable Westminster Leader, Nigel Dodds, was criticised for appearing on a platform following the sectarian murder of two terrorists.
There are a number of charges against Theresa May, which will be vexing Tory MPs as they return to Westminster. Firstly, and most heinously, she has presided over a reduction in the number of Tory MPs. David Cameron bequeathed her a Tory Party with 331 MPs, and she now has just 318 MPs. Losing a majority should be enough for her position to become flaky.
Secondly, the campaign itself was the worst in living memory. To be charitable, not all of this will be Theresa May’s fault; but how she takes advice and how she makes decisions is critical to this.
It would appear that nobody was “in charge” of the election campaign. Lynton Crosby was an advisor, as were Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, her recently sacked joint Chiefs of Staff. No doubt Patrick McLoughlin will have had an input as party Chairman. Clearly former Cabinet Office Minister and former Ipswich MP Ben Gummer will have been involved at some level, as he helped write the manifesto. You cannot run an election by committee, and you need one person in charge. In 2010 and 2015 that person was Lynton Crosby. It was only once he was promoted from “advisor” to boss that the ship stabilised, otherwise we could be looking at Prime Minister Corbyn today.
The decision to call a General Election was not, in itself, a terribly bad idea. At 47% in the polls, with Labour struggling on 29%, it seemed obvious that Mrs May would increase her majority, allowing her more freedom to manoeuvre over the Brexit talks; she wouldn’t have been reliant on a relatively small faction of Tory MPs not breaking ranks in one direction or the other. But to suggest, as she did, that it wasn’t called for entirely party political reasons was ridiculous and was rightly scoffed at by the public, who mostly shared the view of Brenda from Bristol – not another one!
But having called an unnecessary General Election, you have to make sure you bloody well win it. Yes, it’s great to have ambitious targets for taking seats in the North East and North West. And she certainly increased Tory support in swathes of seats. Had she not had such a bloody dreadful campaign, she’d likely have won dozens of new seats.
There is a rule about elections and the economy. Two years ago, the refrain “Long Term Economic Plan” was as unerringly uttered by Tory candidates as “Strong and Stable” was this time. This time, despite the promises of the Labour Shadow Chancellor to turn our economy into the “economic miracle that is Venezuela”, we barely heard anything about the economy.
This is because in the rush to call the election, Mrs May had forgotten to draft a manifesto, and so when the manifesto was rushed out, it didn’t include any costings. So, despite the IFS damning the Labour manifesto as unworkable, they also said that the Tories were not being honest with the voters. This made the economy almost impossible to campaign on.
Instead the Tories were left with a Presidential style election, which this country never really likes, promoting an uncosted manifesto and hoping that the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn for his support for terrorists (IRA, Hamas, Hezbollah) and his views on shoot to kill and nuclear power would sway the country their way.
The problem for the Tories was that the Corbyn record on terror is so bad, it was dismissed by voters as made up. Nobody seems capable of believing that a British MP, that nice kind looking gentleman, would back the IRA.
Even when those who brought about the peace process, like Seamus Mallon and Ken Maginnis said he wasn’t involved, nobody believed it. They believed him when he said he fought for peace, despite Seamus Mallon, deputy to John Hume, the former Social Democratic and Labour Party leader and the architect of the peace process, telling The Sunday Times: “I never heard anyone mention Corbyn at all.
“He very clearly took the side of the IRA and that was incompatible, in my opinion, with working for peace.”
Lord Maginnis, the former Ulster Unionist MP, said: “I was central to the peace process and Corbyn had no participation in it that I was aware of.”
So, faced with an electorate who didn’t believe their claims about their opponent, a Leader who was about as wooden as the Trojan horse, and an election campaign that couldn’t mention the economy, the Tory campaign drowned. Rather than increasing the Tory majority won by hard graft in 2015, Theresa May’s hubris lost the Tories a majority and left her reliant on the DUP to cling to power.
All of this was avoidable. When Amber Rudd’s father sadly passed away, 48 hours before the Cambridge debate among party leaders, Theresa May could have stopped the bleeding and swung the country back to her. She could have appeared on that stage, won the debate, explained her points, and returned to Downing Street victorious. Except… her failings were that she was a wooden performer – even junior campaign staff called her the Maybot – and she is incapable of emoting.
It has been suggested to me in recent days that women in power are always considered to be witches, and are given a harder time than men in similar positions, especially when they don’t show their softer side. It is true that people expected more emotion from a female leader, but I don’t think they were any easier on Gordon Brown, whose social afflictions were such that he did all he could to avoid emoting.
I think that the campaign was basically sunk by two things; a Labour strategic masterstroke, in offering a £27,000 bribe to young voters, and Theresa May’s appalling character flaws, that make her unfit to be a Party Leader in the 21st Century.
It is time for her to make way for a leader more at ease with themselves and with their Conservative values. Whether that is Boris (please no) or David Davis, or Nicky Morgan, or Liam Fox, or any of the other likely runners and riders, it should absolutely not be Theresa May.