May should quit. NOW.

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.

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Farage has no place as a British Diplomat

Following his bizarre pilgrimage to New York for a photo opportunity in a gold plated lift with the latest abomination on the world stage, Nigel Farage is now demanding to be appointed to some official Government role to negotiate with the United States.

Mr Farage is the temporary leader of the UK Independence Party, having resigned after the Referendum and sworn he was done with politics because he wanted his life back.

Five months later he is swooning at the sight of a racist misogynist moron being elected to one of the most powerful positions in the world. The meeting with Donald Trump was weird from the point of view of Mr Farage, but another huge blunder from the out-of-his-depth President-elect.

[This article isn’t about Mr Trump, but one does rather get the impression that he wasn’t really sure what the President does until his 90-minute meeting with Obama, and is now terrified as he realises how out of his depth he is.]

Mr Farage, meanwhile, demands that Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, appoints him to an official Government role to take advantage of his relationship with Mr Trump. I’m not sure what is more of a shock – that he has the chutzpah to suggest such a thing, or that Tory MPs as respected as Sir Gerald Howarth would think that it was a good idea.

Mr Farage is the temporary leader of the UK Independence Party. This is another political party, not a fringe of the Tories, no matter how much the left likes to suggest otherwise. UKIP candidates stand in elections, take votes that could otherwise go to Tory candidates, possible cost the Tories an overall majority in 2010, and certainly hold Council seats that were once Tory – Suffolk County Council would not be a hung council were it not for UKIP.

To suggest that a majority Tory government would appoint someone from another political party to such a vital relationship is bizarre enough, but what exactly does Mr Farage claim qualifies him to do the role? A political career spent sitting on various EU gravy trains while railing against the very organisation whose cash he is busy trousering?

The best person to lead the British Government’s relationship with the US Government is a professional diplomat, namely the British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch. At a Governmental level it will be led by Theresa May, and Boris Johnson will negotiate with whoever Trump picks as Secretary of State, be it Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie or Sen Bob Corker.

Nigel Farage has nothing to offer the British Government; his time is past, his links to the vile racist elements of the Brexit campaign harmed that campaign and while they may endear him to the “Senior Counsellor to the President” Stephen Bannon – a racist white supremacist – they exclude him from ever having a role in any British Government post.

He should shut up and return to the obscurity he claims (from in front of the nearest TV camera) to crave.

Andrea v Theresa – unknown v unlikeable

So some 26 years after Tory MPs defenestrated our last female Prime Minister, they have ensured that the next PM will be the UK’s second female one. And what great options they have given the Tory Party membership. One candidate says look at my experience, just ignore the failure to control immigration, the racist “go home” vans and the fact I called you the nasty party. The other candidate says look at my stellar career in the City, just ignore the fact that I’ve inflated my importance and haven’t really done much of any note.

Whichever way you look at it, the options Tory Party members are given are flawed. Suddenly David Cameron isn’t looking so bad, after all.

The questions are easier to pose for Andrea Leadsom, the answers harder to come by. A relatively junior Minister, she has served as the City Minister and the Energy Minister. Indeed, one local newspaper reporter thought she was still the City Minister when dismissing her chances of getting on the ballot just a week ago. She has not served as a Cabinet Minister, and to my knowledge has never attended a Cabinet Meeting. She has very little experience of Government. She is on the ballot for one reason only – she gave some barnstorming speeches in favour of remain, and she isn’t Michael Gove.

The questions are a lot harder for Theresa May, and the answers perhaps easier to come by. A highly experienced senior politician, Mrs May has served as Home Secretary, usually the graveyard of a political career, without huge controversy for the last six years. Previously she was a Shadow Cabinet Minister under David Cameron, Michael Howard, Iain Duncan Smith and William Hague. She can certainly say look at my experience. And yet…

Mrs May’s tenure at the Home Office doesn’t fill one with confidence in her ability to be a great liberal Conservative Prime Minister. She was tasked with reducing immigration to the tens of thousands. The number of people from outside the EU has gone up. She was a part of the Remain campaign for the EU referendum, but was locked in a box after acknowledging that we can’t control immigration from EU countries if we remain in the Single Market. Her time at the Home Office saw racist “Go Home” vans sent out to drive around the streets of London, saw foul and vile abuses at the Yarls Wood Immigration Detention Centre, abuse which is still going on and is still being denied by the Home Office. She has overseen a total collapse of morale in the police, and huge cuts to Border Security, leaving most airports and seaports in the country totally unsecured. You can spend all you like at Heathrow, but when any idiot with a sail boat can ship across from Holland, France or Belgium in relative safety, it is like bolting the front door while leaving the back open.

More concerning are Mrs May’s known positions. She backed scrapping the Human Rights Act 1998 and pulling the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights & Fundamental Freedoms. She has now retracted her view on withdrawal from the ECHR, but she still backs the ludicrous idea of a British Bill of Rights (we’ve already got one, for starters, and why should only British people have rights?).

She tells her local newspaper that one of her priorities would be to hold a free vote on foxhunting, which was of course in the Tory manifesto, but which has just about no support in the UK anymore.

In one of our local newspapers today, the Ipswich MP Ben Gummer makes a timely intervention on immigration, saying much more eloquently than could I, exactly what many liberal Conservatives feel: the careless use of language when debating the level of immigration into this country has allowed racism to rear its despicable head once again.

Yet Mr Gummer backs Mrs May, who told the Tory Party conference that she hadn’t been able to deport an immigrant because of his cat. Not only was that story totally untrue, it was widely reported and it became part of the very folklore that Mr Gummer rightly deplored. On doorsteps across Ipswich, in pubs and clubs, on buses, in taxis, you will hear stories like that replayed again and again. Politicians, especially Home Secretaries and Prime Ministers, have a responsibility not to be casual with the truth. Mrs May was over immigration, and my fear is that she will be again.

It is difficult to know Mrs Leadsom’s views on the Human Rights Act or on immigration. Or anything really. We do know that, unlike Mrs May, she believes that any EU citizen currently living lawfully in the UK should be allowed to remain in the UK once we Brexit. Mrs May wishes not to give that guarantee, instead believing we should use people as bargaining chips to guarantee the rights of British citizens living in the EU – who would, of course, still be able to bring cases under EU law and ECHR law that deporting them because of a decision which they could not participate in would be a breach of their fundamental freedoms.

There have been dangerous calls for the Tory party to expedite the process in order to ensure stable Government quickly. The reason I call these dangerous is because while they stem from supporters of Mrs May (in the main) they risk the electorate backing Mrs Leadsom without any real testing of her views.

The next two months will see both ladies troop around the country, speaking to Tory associations and getting over their view of what the nation should look like. Mrs May will espouse her experience, trying gently to cover over the huge blaring gaffes like those racist go home vans, or the cat story. Mrs Leadsom will put forward, I assume, a vision of optimism about the opportunities afforded by Brexit. She will, I hope, explain where she stands on issues from Human Rights, to Welfare, to Education, to Healthcare. It is unlikely she is vastly different on most of these issues to Mrs May, but it is important that the media and the Tory Party members who get to speak to her really push her on where she stands, rather than concentrating on minutiae like her CV. After all, come September 2nd, she might be sitting down with HM The Queen and being appointed Prime Minister.

Whoever wins, the unknown or the unlikeable, it is likely that the nation will be radically different come May 2020, not just different to how it is now, but also different to how it would have been had David Cameron remained in that top job for as long as he wanted to.

Let the best woman win.

Thousands converge on Downing Street to protest Tory victory

Fuck Tory Scum

Protestors took to the streets today outside Downing Street, to protest against the outcome of the General Election, and against austerity.

In an act of irony, they took to twitter using the hashtag #occupydemocracy. They clearly have no understanding of what democracy means.

Yes, it is outrageous that our electoral system allows a party that gets 37% of the vote to form a majority Government. But I don’t think that’s what has upset them – instead it is that the TORIES form the Government.

Why do I say this? Well apart from Laurie Penny defending the vandalism of a memorial to the Women of World War Two – on the very day we celebrate Victory in Europe – it is because these protestors didn’t take to the streets in 2005 when Labour won a majority of 66 seats on just 35.2% of the vote.

Cull the ToriesIf your objection is the first past the post system – which was confirmed as the country’s preferred electoral system just four years ago in a referendum when 67.9% of the voters decided not to change – then go and protest First Past the Post. But when you’re carrying “Cull The Tories” signs and scrawling “Fuck Tory Scum” on war memorials I don’t think your objection is first past the post – it is that your preferred party wasn’t preferred by the other voters.

As for austerity, both UKIP and the Tories pledged to stick to Treasury deficit reduction targets. Between them they got more than half of the votes cast in this election. Given Labour also pledged to reduce the deficit, as did the Northern Irish Unionist parties, and at least one Independent, you’ve lost that argument too.

So to those on the streets screaming “fascist pig filth” at the police, and their supporters on twitter, tucked up quietly in their middle class homes away from the reality of the demonstration, I really have nothing to say.

Culture Secretary blows into town to support Ben Gummer

Gummer-Selfie-with-Sajid-JavidTory Cabinet Minister Sajid Javid visited Ipswich today to boost the campaign of incumbent Ben Gummer, who is in the fight of his life to hold onto the seat against Labour’s council leader candidate David Ellesmere.

Mr Javid blew into town almost an hour late, after being delayed on his way from Norwich because the overhead wires were brought down by the wind. He visited a couple of shops on St Peter’s Street, answered a couple of questions from journalists, before posing for photographs – including a Gummer Selfie – with campaign volunteers.

He rushed off to meet the train back to London, facing a long trip back to the capital because of the ongoing rail problems caused by weather.

Sajid-Javid-&-Ben-Gummer-answer-journalists-questionsMr Gummer and Mr Javid didn’t face any tough questions about the claims the Tories made yesterday about Labour’s tax plans; nor did they have to explain why shopkeepers should vote for them when Labour’s business rates cut pledge is better for small businesses than the Tories business rate review.

That isn’t the point of these visits though. The real reason is to ensure that candidates like Mr Gummer, in marginal seats that the Tories absolutely have to win if they want Mr Cameron to continue as Prime Minister, can show the support they have right at the top of Government.

Loyalty is powerful in political parties, and incumbents who have shown loyalty to their party during the last five years can expect lots of visits from Cabinet level power brokers within their party. So when people ask why Ben Gummer has followed his party on almost every vote, part of it is because he wants doors to open when he goes to Ministers for a favour for Ipswich.

Mr Javid isn’t the first big hitter to visit during this election campaign – Caroline Flint came to support David Ellesmere, Labour’s candidate, yesterday. I doubt either of them will be the last.

A positive campaign? Some hope.

Today sees the start of the General Election campaign “proper”. You might be forgiven for thinking it had started weeks – or even months – ago. Residents of Ipswich, a marginal seat, have been bombarded with literature by both Tories and Labour since the beginning of the year.

At a meeting of the local Labour Party, the election campaign they promised was one of positivity, hope and change. The local Conservatives also argue that they will campaign positively, arguing that Ben Gummer’s record as the town’s MP is one to be proud of.

Will we really be able to get through the next six weeks without the parties descending into negative campaigning? I don’t mean the sort of rubbish you see in the USA, but are we really going to see the two main protagonists stick to arguing their own messages and their own policies rather than denigrating the other?

Sadly I would not put money on it. As much of the message coming from either camp is about negative elements of their opponent’s message as it is positive elements of their own. David Ellesmere and Labour will want to highlight what they perceive as the failings of the Government and Ben Gummer’s complicity in those failings. Ben Gummer and the Conservatives will want to highlight what they perceive as the failings of the Borough Council and David Ellesmere’s complicity in those failings.

Rather than spending the next six weeks taking lumps out of each other over disputed statistics, who said what to whom and who broke what promise, would it not be better to spend the time explaining to the voters what each candidate would do to make things better for the residents of Ipswich?

Unfortunately a desire to prove the other side wrong is strong in any politician. I suspect that desire will overcome any positivity or hope in this campaign. The public will hate that.

Miliband turns out not to be such a millstone for Labour

So last night we had the first election “debate” between David Cameron and Ed Miliband. Miliband won the toss and decided to go second, meaning Cameron faced Jeremy Paxman, then a town hall style debate compered by Kay Burley. Then Miliband faced the town hall, followed by his own interview with Paxo.

My instinctive reaction afterwards was that Ed Miliband had won. While Cameron hadn’t put a foot wrong, and provided a polished and smooth performance, it came across as a little too polished and smooth. Where was the passion? Where was the man who felt he was fighting an election he could win?

The contrast with Miliband was stark. He came out of the blocks swinging, and knocked down a number of highly personal questions – such as whether his brother should have been the leader. As much as many socialists on Twitter felt that his filial relations are irrelevant, they have become so ingrained with his public profile that the reaction to Ed on the doorstep has been an issue for Labour; Ed? Oh yes, he’s the one who stabbed his brother in the back. That isn’t a public profile that persuades people to vote for him.

ICM’s flash poll for the Guardian indicates that I was wrong, and that the senior Tory who text me suggesting that Miliband was showing why he was a Mili-stone around the Labour neck was actually right. I really don’t think it was a car crash for Miliband; I expect that the fact the broadcasters are choosing to focus on his answer to the toughness question will help to bear that out in the coming days and weeks.

It was ironic that Paxman chose to use the example of a man he met on the tube. Mr Miliband was much mocked for choosing to introduce a series of men he’d met in public parks to illustrate his conference speech. But when asked if he was tough enough to go toe to toe with President Putin, he claimed “hell yeah I’m tough enough.”

The clearly rehearsed line plays well for TV, despite the fact he managed to trip over his own tongue in delivering it. Whether it will continue to play well once the comedians start to mock him for it – and absolutely they will – only time will tell.

Cameron acknowledged that he couldn’t live on a zero-hours contract, but highlighted that the Government had banned the exclusivity element, though Labour claim this doesn’t go far enough. He acknowledged that food bank use had grown enormously, but stuck to his risible claim that this was because more people are aware of the existence of them; people do not want to use food banks and they would only use them because they had to.

Cameron also admitted that he’d missed his targets on immigration and eliminating the deficit. This is important and he will have to address both of those missed targets again in the coming weeks. He will also need a better answer on VAT than the one he gave – the last election he ruled out raising it, and then put it up. His argument – that by being the Government he now knows what the state of the public finances are so knows he doesn’t need to raise VAT – doesn’t address why he made a pledge that he broke in the first place.

Did we learn anything new from last night’s non-debate debate? Well I didn’t, but I suspect some of those who watched will have been more surprised by Miliband than the Tories would have hoped. Having seen him on his sole visit to Ipswich, I was less surprised. He connects with people on an individual basis and I recall saying back then that if Labour could put him on every doorstep they would win.

While ICM say that Cameron won 54/46, the more important figure is in the detail of the poll. It says that of those voters who identified themselves as floating, 56% said that they now will vote Labour, while 30% will now definitely vote Conservative.

Round 1 to Labour, but there is a long way to go in this election.