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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Copeland reaction reveals Labour in cloud cuckoo land

“The decline in Labour support in these areas did not start when Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader; it started when a New Labour project took hold of our party and decided to ignore working class communities across the country. The fragility of Labour’s core vote in Scotland and the North was an issue long before Corbyn arrived as an easy scapegoat for the existential crisis that we face as a party. It would also be wrong to deny the impact of a concerted effort by members of the Parliamentary Labour Party to undermine Jeremy Corbyn since the day he was elected. Indeed Peter Mandelson proudly admitted recently that he works ‘every day to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’.”

That’s Liam Young writing in the Independent. He’s right, of course, the fragility in Labour’s support among the working classes was started under the middle class privately educated Oxford graduate, Blair, and continued under the middle class Edinburgh graduate Brown. It got worse under the middle class Oxford graduate Miliband, and the entire POINT of Corbyn was that he would appeal to the masses, supposedly. Quite how a middle class, privately educated professional objector and demonstrator was supposed to be the “champion of the workers” has always mystified me, and instead he has continued to allow the Labour support to decline to just those foolish enough to believe in policies that the majority of the public – 74% at the latest polling – do not support. You cannot win a general election when 3 in 4 people believe you to be wrong.

Ludicrously, Ian Lavery maintains today that Jeremy Corbyn is the most popular politician in the country.

These people need to wake up to reality, because while they are arguing over whether someone who left professional politics 10 years ago is still relevant now, the Tories are getting on with winning by-elections and running the country. And Labour’s positions, bonkers as they may be considered by most, are entirely irrelevant when they are not seen as a credible threat by the Government.

Brexit needs democratic legitimacy of Commons vote

Sir Humphrey Appleby once intoned to Jim Hacker, “Minister, if you’re going to do this damn silly thing, don’t do it in this damn silly way.”

This particular phrase has stuck in my mind several times since Theresa May took over as Prime Minister with an insistence that her entire plan for leaving the EU was that Brexit means Brexit.

I voted to Leave the European Union, and one of the many reasons I voted to leave was because I wanted more power in the hands of the House of Commons and British Parliamentarians. The official slogan of the official vote leave campaign was “Take Back Control”.

Mrs May wasn’t on the Brexit side, and there was considerable disquiet from Brexit voters that the new Prime Minister was a Remainer. It has left her with little legitimacy from either Brexit or Remain voters, and therefore with little leeway in implementing policy.

Prominent Leave campaigner Peter Bone MP today put forward a Private Members Bill to enable a notification under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. Such a notification is a formality that is required before we start to negotiate on the terms of our exit.

Yet the notification has not been made – and some Brexiteers fear it will never be made. This is in part because of the legal disagreement between the Government and the Judiciary over the right of the Royal Prerogative to make the notification.

Frankly the Government has gone down the wrong path and it ought to recognise that.

By insisting that the Prime Minister has the ability to make a notification under Article 50, and that it doesn’t require an Act of Parliament, the Government has set off a chain of events that were entirely unnecessary.

This insistence has further enraged Brexit voters and made them feel genuine concern that the establishment is trying to frustrate the will of the British people.

It has emboldened Remain voters who believe that they are right to try and frustrate the will of the British people.

It has sparked the resignation of a Member of Parliament, Stephen Phillips QC, from the Government’s own side, who called the moves a “tyranny” and said the Government was acting in a way that was “fundamentally undemocratic, unconstitutional and cuts across the rights and privileges of the legislature.”

It has lost a case in the High Court of England and Wales and looks about to lose in the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

Rather than continuing to avoid democratic institutions in a kamikaze attempt to avoid gifting further democratic legitimacy to the notification of Article 50, the Government should abandon the appeal to the Supreme Court, which many legal observers believe it is doomed to lose, and instead put its weight behind Peter Bone’s Private Members Bill, a move which would also give him the honour of sponsoring the Act of Parliament that finally begins our exit from the oppression of the European Union.

The only way to heal the deep divisions caused by Brexit is by ensuring democratic oversight of the entire process, and by winning a vote in the House of Commons to give expression to the will of the British people.

In other words, if the Government is going to do this very sensible thing, it should ensure it does it in a very sensible way…

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.

Nuclear weapons renewal? Not in my name…

One of the things that Theresa May will have had to do when she became Prime Minister is to sit down and write a letter.

This letter is entirely private, and we should hope that it is never ever read. It is a “letter of last resort” and gives instructions to the commanding officer of Britain’s nuclear submarines, to be followed in the event of a nuclear war wiping out the British Government.

Every Prime Minister writes a letter, and it is destroyed unopened when that Prime Minister leaves office, leaving its contents known only to them. So we should hope and pray that Mrs May’s letter is never ever read.

Nuclear weapons exist, and their existence is a tragedy which has the potential to end the world. That Britain has nuclear weapons is a matter of historical fact, thanks to the decisions made by the Labour Government after World War Two. The nuclear weapons that Clement Atlee commissioned have been replaced and updated, and on Monday Parliament will be asked, once again, to approve the purchase of the new Successor submarines, to replace the Vanguard class submarines that currently make up the UK’s Continuous At Sea Deterrent.

In some ways the decision to schedule the vote on Trident replacement is more about politics than it is about the need for the UK to update these submarines. The new Prime Minister parked her tanks on the centre ground when she took power last week, and while there have been some right-wing appointments in her Cabinet, moderates like Amber Rudd, Justine Greening, Liz Truss, Greg Clark, and Ben Gummer, have all seen preferment. This is an issue where Tory Party strategists believe that the public concerns about Jeremy Corbyn’s national security positions will help secure the next General Election.

Tory Party strategists may well be right; Labour Party policy is in favour of replacing Trident, but Mr Corbyn and the majority of the new members are firmly against it. The level of support for nuclear weapons in the country is really quite surprisingly high. But just occasionally the minority opinion is the right thing to do.

Nuclear weapons are massively expensive, and completely pointless. As I have pointed out before, there is a reason they call it MAD. Mutually Assured Destruction is a policy that would see everybody dead. Despite seventy years of conflict since the last time anyone used a nuclear weapon, the appalling impact of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has meant that nobody has ever used them again.

As I have written before, I don’t believe any Government will ever use them. Of the nine states with nuclear weapons, two, India & Pakistan, have been at war with each other a number of times. North Korea is led by a madman and is technically still at war with South Korea and the United States. Israel has been attacked on an almost daily basis by Iranian sponsored terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah. Not once have any of these countries used the dread power that they have at their command. Because they know that it would be entirely mad to do so.

The UK remains a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. The Government is committed to multi-lateral disarmament. Yet while these weapons are updated, and “improved” to make them harder to defend against and even more deadly, true disarmament will not happen.

Normally I would argue passionately against unilateral actions. If your enemy has a weapon, you need it too. But that isn’t the case with nuclear weapons. As a member nation of NATO, we live under the US and French nuclear umbrella. If we were attacked by a nuclear state, our NATO allies are treaty bound to defend us, or to respond with nuclear force. NOT having our own nuclear weapons would make absolutely no difference to our nation’s defence; all it would mean is that we wouldn’t be able to make a belligerent nuclear attack on any nation. Does anyone really want us to have the capacity to make a belligerent nuclear attack on another nation?

On Monday our MPs will troop through the yes lobby and vote in favour of renewing Trident. Almost all Tory MPs will support it, and many Labour MPs will follow their party policy as well. But, despite being a tribal Tory voter, I will be, in spirit, with those MPs from all parties who vote against renewing our nuclear weapons. We do not need these weapons. We cannot afford these weapons. We should not be wasting this money on such pointless weapons systems.

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.