Archive for the 'Theresa May' Category


The Tories must leave and give Corbyn his chance

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

A tawdry May-DUP deal is not something Con MPs should sign up to

According to the plan, this should have been the week when Theresa May stamped her authority on her government, her Party and the country. A reshuffle to mould her ministers in her image; a Queen’s Speech to tackle the issues she cares about, in the way that she wants to tackle them; and five years in which to do that, to deliver Brexit and to tee up another term. How the gods laughed.

Instead, May demonstrated – and continues to demonstrate – that while she’s perfectly capable of handling the business of government, she’s hopelessly inept at the politics and PR of government. Unfortunately, the various aspects can’t be separated, nor can any of them be ignored. Not if a PM wants to last in office anyway.

The evidence of the tin ear of May and her inner team to dealing with the politics and PR of running a government and party is already huge. Ministers need to be treated with respect, not only because that is their due out of position but because they hold independent power as substantial figures in Westminster. Instead, they were belittled by a pair of over-mighty SpAds. Journalists need to be humoured with stories, anecdote and copy. Instead, they were locked away from the action during the election and not allowed to even hold the microphone when asking questions. How unsurprising that they didn’t see or report things favourably. The excess of control and the desire to hide from any perceived risk is the antithesis of leadership and betrays a deep lack of self-confidence. And if May can’t be confident in her abilities, why should anyone else?

Not that the failings ended with the election. The human touch was again lacking in handling defeated MPs and – most obviously to the public – in not meeting those who have lost everything in the appalling Grenfell fire, exacerbating the problem by citing ‘security’. The Queen went.

It should be obvious now to Tory MPs that this is part of a pattern; that the behaviour is not just a bad run but is characteristic of May’s way of working and is not going to change. As yet, we know little of the DUP negotiations but again, where is the involvement of other ministers or of the parliamentary party? There is no collegiality; there is no recognition that the smallest rebellion puts her majority at risk. If left to run by themselves, events will ensure that May cannot serve for long. It would be far better to pre-empt that inevitability by not undermining the Northern Ireland process by so overtly aligning with one side, by not undermining the case for fiscal responsibility by agreeing to whatever the DUP come up with (and, consequently, by having to find several dozen times as much to satisfy Barnett consequences for the rest of the country), and by keeping control of events.

Which is to say that May must go.

However, what then? Whoever is leader of the Tories still faces the same parliamentary arithmetic. If the DUP are spurned, the government has no reliable majority. The answer is simple: it too should go. Jeremy Corbyn has already indicated that he is ready to form a government; he should be allowed to do so.

In some ways, Corbyn lost the election: he won fewer votes than the Tories and he won fewer seats than the Tories. In another way though, he won. The argument for fiscal responsibility was lost. This was admittedly partly by default through the unwillingness of May to allow Hammond any airtime or to endorse Osborne’s policies but all the same, the country again believes in magic money trees. And it will continue to do so until it is proven that such trees are not magic but poisonous.

Corbyn should therefore be given time to enact his policies and the country given the chance to judge. The Tories remain in a position where they can block an early election, which can easily be justified through to next May at least on the grounds that the public neither wants nor needs a new election and that Labour should get on with the job they asked for, and can block any legislation that would be too difficult to reverse.

Is this a high-risk strategy? In some senses, yes – giving the ground to your opponent always is. On the other hand, if the choice is between an unstable Labour minority government now and a potential Labour majority government elected after a zombie Tory minority government stumbles and falls in 18 months to two years, it’s a question of the lesser of two evils.

And the lesser evil is Corbyn, now.

David Herdson


TMay drops to new ratings low & comes under fire for not meeting with Grenfell Tower survivors

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

How things look so different from just 7 days ago

What a dramatic week it has been for TMay. At this time last Thursday she appeared to be heading for a comfortable majority with her gamble on an early election looking as though it had paid off. That, as we all know was not to be.

Now in the first leader ratings carried out since GE17 she finds herself down sharply. The YouGov chart above illustrates the trend in its favourability ratings where TMay is now down to a net minus 34%. Corbyn, meanwhile is on a net zero.

On top of that she’s coming under fire for not meeting survivors of yesterday’s Grenfell Tower tragedy on a visit to the site. This contrasts sharply with the LAB leader’s visit a bit later.

This is from Will Heaven on the Spectator’s Coffee House blog

“..Why on earth didn’t May meet or speak to any survivors of the fire, show some empathy in public, and promise them face-to-face that the government would look after them and get to the bottom of what nearly killed them? It would have perfectly rebutted the claim that the rich and powerful simply don’t care about the lives of poorer people who live in social housing.

She apparently didn’t speak to a single local about what had happened. This is exactly what Tory MPs, and indeed many voters, complained about during and after the election: May comes across as too cold and detached. In statements, she has said she wants to ‘reassure’ the residents of Grenfell Tower. Why not do that in the flesh?…

…In contrast, Jeremy Corbyn visited the site later on, meeting locals and – TV footage shows – even embracing them. “

If there is an early general election, and we can’t rule that out, she needs to improve her people skills. It is events like today that can get remembered.

Mike Smithson


Prime Minister Theresa May Episode II

Monday, June 12th, 2017

All learning, it is said, is a form of humiliation.  There is no doubt that Theresa May has been humiliated by the events of the last few days.  She has lost her majority, she has lost her authority and she may yet lose her job.  Yet for now she remains in harness and she has the opportunity to learn from what has happened.

Just a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister stood confidently above all that she surveyed.  Her popularity was stratospheric, her lead in the polls was eye-popping.  Her decision to call an early election was widely praised by the pundits as smart politics.  It is important to recall this because many of the same pundits are heaping derision upon her (not pausing to blush that they also completely misread what was going on).

As you would expect of someone who lives in Shoreditch, I was unconvinced by the Prime Minister long before it was fashionable: see here and here.  A hipster May doubter, you might call me.  I have to say, however, that her positive virtues are now being completely forgotten.  No one becomes Home Secretary for six years by accident, let alone Prime Minister.  She has serious ability, even if many are ignoring that now.

One of the Prime Minister’s great strengths is as an analyst of problems.  She focuses on the immediate task at hand and seeks solutions.  So, charged with delivering Brexit, she identified the parameters and sought an approach consistent with those parameters.  You can argue with the tone she struck while doing so (I certainly would – I was appalled, for example, at the “citizens of nowhere” jibe) but the content was grounded in an acute understanding of what the public expected from the vote.

If the Prime Minister is to stay in office, she must analyse again.  The country declined to give her the mandate she sought.  She is not going to be able to act unilaterally; instead, she is going to have to consult with different groupings inside and outside the Conservative party (on Brexit and other subjects) to broker an agreed way forward.

This is going to require a whole new way of conducting government.  The Prime Minister is going to need to chair rather than dictate, to shepherd the pares rather than be the primus.  She and her trusted lieutenants will need to invest time making sure the recalcitrant and disaffected are kept on board with her plans.  She is not going to be able to get her own way on everything and sometimes she is going to need to push through compromises that she personally finds unpalatable.

Theresa May might seek to build this into the way of conducting government.  She might well consider formal committees with party representatives from Scotland and Wales.  This would have the additional bonus of driving the SNP wild with rage.  It might give a way to build DUP representation in also.

The government will be able to get relatively little legislation through, and, with one unavoidable exception, nothing controversial.  Brexit will need to be the centrepiece.  Theresa May urgently needs to agree principles of engagement with all flanks of her party on this.  There is no Commons majority for the idea that no deal is better than a bad deal (the DUP will insist on a soft border with the Republic of Ireland, for example), and this will need to be junked.  While the decision on freedom of movement probably cannot be revisited, she should rethink urgently her other previous red lines, such as not accepting the ECJ’s jurisdiction.  Early movement on protecting the position of current EU residents is probably required also.  Much of this will be highly unpalatable to the headbangers, but the Conservatives simply don’t have the numbers to force that through.  They will take some persuading, I’m sure.

It will be a very different government from the one that she has run to date.  It will take humility and patience.  Theresa May strikes me as having the patience.  The humility is no doubt a work in progress.

I firmly believe that Theresa May has a strong sense of duty.  Many would have resigned office on Friday morning but I believe that she has stayed in office out of a sense that would be letting the nation down.  If she wants to serve the nation best, she will need to make some dramatic adjustments.  If she is allowed the chance and she manages it, she might even find that she becomes a better Prime Minister.

Alastair Meeks


Life comes at you fast these days doesn’t it Mrs May?

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

Watch what Theresa May told George Osborne when she sacked him.

For all future party leaders, I have a bit of advice for you, be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you’ll eventually meet them on the way down, when you need them the most.

Just watch the video above where George Osborne tells us what Mrs May told him when she sacked him last July. Instead of having a very good and loyal ally, she made a needless enemy. She really is a dead woman walking, the lack of substantial change in the reshuffle confirms it, she is a Prime Minister in office but not in power.

Nemesis really does follow hubris, particularly in the world of politics.



Why Tory MPs must stop the Tory DUP deal from happening

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

By allying herself with a party that has an MP that called homosexuals ‘poofs’ and ‘perverts’ Theresa May is once again putting herself ahead of the party and country, the Tory party has to stop her committing yet another huge mistake.

Though the DUP denied it, last night it was reported that the Tories and DUP had struck a supply and confidence deal, a poll from Survation, the most accurate pollster in terms of voting intention shares for the general election, found that 49% of voters oppose such a deal and only a third of voters support it, I’ll explain why those numbers will get worse for the Tories as well as being a bad idea in general.

As the above tweet shows there’s huge concerns within the Tory party about such a deal, and it is a great irony that the woman who warned about the Tories being perceived as the nasty party fifteen years ago is doing her best to restore that perception about the Tories and undo the decade long hard work of David Cameron of detoxifying the Tory brand.

As I noted above, one DUP MP, Sammy Wilson in the 1990s called homosexuals ‘poofs’ and ‘perverts’, whilst but two years ago the DUP leadership said they stood by a DUP minister at Stormont who said ‘The facts show that certainly you don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship … that child is far more likely to be abused or neglected … in a non-stable marriage.’ By political osmosis the Tories are going to be contaminated by the DUP, and I’ve not even started on some of the other interesting views the DUP have on things like creationism. For brevity, I’m not discussing the DUP’s economic outlook which can be characterised as economic socialism, which will endear the DUP even less to the Tory party.

By going into an alliance/coalition with the DUP there is a danger that the reality, or even the perception that the Tories might damage the Irish peace process so they can keep power. Suddenly the Tories might be accused of doing what they said of Corbyn, he’s a risk to the peace process and the security of the UK. Then add in this story, and imagine if this story was about Corbyn and the IRA, ‘DUP chief Arlene Foster met UDA boss days after loyalist murder in Bangor.’ It negates the attacks on Corbyn going forward.

In politics sometimes perceptions matter more than the facts, and with Article I of The Good Friday Agreement stating that the UK and Irish governments should act with “rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions” there will be a perception that the Tories are risking the peace in Northern Ireland for their own political gain, and recent history has shown, troubles in Northern Ireland seldom stay confined to the six counties, but end up wreaking havoc on the British mainland.

There’s another major reason why this deal with the DUP is a bad idea, as someone who campaigned for the Tories in 2015, I know how badly English voters took the possibility of English money being sent to Scotland to keep a Celtic nation party happy. Now wonder how those English coupled with Scottish, and Welsh voters will feel about their money being sent to Northern Ireland to keep the government going. This will have a negative impact on the Tories in the ballot box.

Getting too involved with the DUP could also set the Tories back in Scotland and undo the hard work of Ruth Davidson, whose efforts were the sole high point for the Tories on Thursday, indeed were it not for those twelve Scottish Tory gains it is likely Jeremy Corbyn would have become Prime Minister on Friday. For that alone the Tory party should make Ruth Davidson party leader and Prime Minister, but I digress.

Given the politically tone deaf speech Mrs May gave outside Downing Street on Friday, where Mrs May spoke like a woman who had won a majority of 100 plus instead of the woman who needlessly lost David Cameron’s majority, I don’t think she has the nous to deal with the DUP or the fallout from any deal.

Good people like Edward Timpson, Nicola Blackwood, Charlotte Leslie, and Neil Carmichael who lost their seats on Thursday have already been sacrificed because the of  the failed Turing test Theresa May’s folly and incompetence, in calling a needless election and then running the worst election campaign in living memory if not history.

By allying herself with the DUP, Mrs May will ensure a lot more Tory MPs will lose their seats at the next general election. To quote the Prime Minister, no deal is better than a bad deal, it is better to run as a minority government than rely on the DUP.

Worst of all she is making it probable, not just possible Corbyn will be Prime Minister within the next five years. She is in danger of being spoken in the same breath as Neville Chamberlain if she doesn’t change her approach as Tory MPs will soon conclude, if they already haven’t, that no Theresa is better than a bad Theresa.


PS – As I was finishing writing this piece just after midnight, it appears Mrs May and her team really have jumped the gun in announcing the DUP supply and confidence deal. Does the country and the Tory party really want someone this inept as Prime Minister and running the Brexit negotiations? Last night it was also reported that Mrs May took the fateful decision to call the snap election having been urged to do so by EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.


Ideas, events and people. What the Conservatives need to do next

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Theresa May is under enormous pressure following her failure to win an overall majority.  Straw-laden pitchforks are being doused with petrol, the pearl-handled revolver is being polished.  She cannot continue, it is being said. She’s lost all her authority, anonymous briefings growl.  The question that exercises many is whether she should go at once or later.  Different names are being touted as her replacement (one suspects by the would-be replacements).

The Conservatives are repeating their mistakes from the election campaign.  They spent the entire campaign based on personality politics, presenting Theresa May as Prime Ministerial and attacking Jeremy Corbyn for his past unsavoury connections, with only terrorist attacks intruding to draw them up to the level of discussing events.  Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn spent the campaign discussing his ideas.

The Conservatives need to pause.  Right now, the personal isn’t the important political.  They need to think.   Let’s look at the ideas that they should be thinking about.

First, obviously, the Conservatives no longer have an overall majority.  That means that the nature of government is going to change radically.  A week ago, the Conservatives had hoped for an overall majority where the wishes of all bar a few in the inner circle could be disregarded.  Not only has that hope been dashed, policy discussions are no longer solely an internal Conservative party affair.

Secondly, the Conservatives are stuck in government.  No one else can conceivably govern on the current numbers.  So the Conservatives have to decide whether they are going to work together or work to undermine each other.  I would recommend Option A in any case but if some Conservatives are inclined to plot, they should consider how willing they are to see Jeremy Corbyn in power, which would be the inevitable consequence of internecine strife.  My sense is that the loathing for Jeremy Corbyn is unfeigned.   So they should cooperate.

Thirdly, they need to accept that means that no one is going to get things all or even mostly their own way on any subject, least of all Brexit.  Open-door immigration is out of the question.  But so are some of the weirder hard Brexit obsessions.

What this points to is a Prime Minister who is effectively able to manage all of the Conservative factions and to reach out to those outside the party to form alliances as necessary.  Their personal authority is less important than their ability to manage shifting groups and to sell compromises to them.

Right now there are a lot of Conservatives who are very angry with Theresa May.  I don’t blame them.  But who have they got available who would be better at that task?  The obvious name, David Cameron, has retired.  Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are deeply and rightly distrusted by many.  For that matter, so is George Osborne.  Amber Rudd, maybe, but she has the misfortune of a tiny majority which would probably be too distracting in an election campaign.  David Davis is much-touted but is temperamentally a lone wolf and what is required is a leader of a pack.  Philip Hammond is a better possibility, though the distrust that some on the right feel towards him from his Chancellorship is not an asset.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that the right person for the job might well be the person who currently occupies it.  Ten days ago I speculated that if the election resulted in a hung Parliament: “The Conservatives might very well find themselves stuck with a leader levitating at the top of the party without any means of support.” Rather than take out their anger on Theresa May, Conservatives should consider what the job of Prime Minister will require in the next few years.  I’m not sure that any replacement is likely to be an improvement.  

Alastair Meeks


Why TMay must stay – for now

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

There is much to be getting on with, including leadership election reform

A minority government propped up on a vote-by-vote basis by a minor party where the government, even including the ally, only has a majority of about 13 (once Sinn Fein are excluded), is about as strong and stable as a three-legged gazelle roller-skating across ice.

In normal circumstances, not only would this not be a parliament likely to go the distance, it would do well to reach a first anniversary. These, however, are not normal circumstances.

The Brexit clock is ticking. More than two months have already passed, to no effect. Indeed, the government’s situation now is worse than it was in March, thanks to the general election May called.

Not that calling the election was necessarily the wrong decision; fighting it so stupidly was the error. Had May capitalised on the 20% leads she genuinely had – the local elections verify the polls – then the delay would have been well worth it. As it is, both the time and the majority have been frittered away. Those responsible need to pay the price.

None more so than Nick Timothy, if reports of his responsibility for the social care charging policy are correct. Of course, ultimate responsibility must lie with Theresa May herself, who could have rejected the idea but didn’t – and who could and should have run such a central policy past both the cabinet and Lynton Crosby. I very much doubt that she did either, as they surely would have seen the folly of centring the manifesto launch on a large tax rise aimed at several core groups.

But for the moment, May isn’t expendable. Partly, that’s because of Brexit but it’s also because it’d look undemocratic to change prime minister so soon after the party was (just) returned at the polls. So if she can’t be removed then she needs her wings clipping and needs to be made to work more openly and collegiately with her cabinet. Regrettably, the early signs, such as her post-election comments, do not look encouraging on that score.

She is, however, on borrowed time. Quite how much time that is is anyone’s guess. With no majority, the Tories’ position in parliament is dependent on preventing the other parties from all aligning against her. Otherwise, she faces a Vote of No Confidence and an election at a time of the opposition’s choosing (or, to pre-empt losing that No Confidence vote, being forced to advocate a dissolution motion while in serious trouble). Avoiding that alliance is likely to be expensive, both in political terms for her and in financial terms for the country.

While she gets on with Brexit talks abroad and staving off defeat at home, there is a more arcane matter that needs attending to (of course, there are many such matters but as this is a political betting website, let’s focus on one relevant to that purpose). The Conservative Party’s leadership election rules are stuck in the 1980s. In fact, they date from later than that but they were already an anachronism when introduced, as indeed are those for the other main parties.

The problem is that back then, the Commons was politics as far as the UK was concerned. Yes, there was the Lords and the European parliament but the EP was a sideshow for Euro-nerds and the Lords was at the wrong end of a one-way cul-de-sac as far as leadership contenders were concerned. Since then, British politics has become far more multi-polar: the devolved parliaments, assemblies and mayoralties wield serious power and are equivalent to a cabinet-level job. Those who make a success of them should be contenders for the top-most job. The era of limiting nominees for party leaderships to MPs should end.

And that’s the third reason why May needs to stay for now: one of the party’s biggest stars and most effective campaigners is currently ineligible. Sure, doing so would mean that some constitutional conventions would need amending but a convention is simply what is acceptable at the time. Usually, that’s bound by precedent but as circumstances change that need not necessarily be the case.

The next two years will be difficult for Britain, for British politics and for the Conservative Party. Theresa May has landed all three in difficulty. If she does fall before a Brexit deal is reached, both Brexit logic and political ability suggest that one of Davis or Boris would make the most natural successor. They at least should be au fait with the detail of the negotiations. But would either be the best the Party could put to the people at the next election? Both have question marks against them – though both have big plusses too. However, Ruth Davidson equally has big plusses (and smaller question marks) and should at the least be eligible for nomination.

At no better than 7/1 for Davidson, I don’t see much if any value. Unless the rules change, she’s tied into Holyrood for the foreseeable future, certainly beyond May’s likely departure date. Davis, at 5/1, is better value although it’s still not great. Even so, with May likely to be gone before a Brexit deal is settled, he’d be my tip.

David Herdson


All you need is Gove, Gove, Gove is all you need Mrs May

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Mrs May needs not only a Willie, but also a Sir Keith Joseph

If Mrs May wants to emulate the success of Mrs Thatcher, I’ve said before she needs a Willie,  but assuming Mrs May wins a majority on Thursday, what this campaign has exposed is that she needs better support and advisers, as ‘the vision thing’ is lacking, as exemplified by the disastrous announcement of the social care changes that led many opponents to characterise it as a dementia tax whilst many Tories wondered if Nick Timothy was a Labour sleeper agent. A good policy brain is essential to be a successful Prime Minister as Mrs Thatcher acknowledged about Sir Keith Joseph.

So who is best placed to come up with the vision thing, I’d suggest Michael Gove would be the ideal person for that. As a former Chairman of the think tank Policy Exchange he be good at wonkery, and his tenure as both Education Secretary and Justice Secretary showed he was willing to be radical, in the latter role earning praise from Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform.

There would be controversy about bringing back a tainted Gove into government, last summer Ben Wallace, currently Security Minister and ally of Boris Johnson, wanted to go all Game of Thrones and perform a penectomy on Michael Gove so Mrs May might be thinking Gove will tear us apart, but she shouldn’t.

Gove as noted above apart from being a thinker, is electorally successful as one of the architects behind Vote Leave, so it would be useful to have him back in the tent. Because Brexit will dominate the next Parliament, but as a believer in Thatcherite free market economics, he’d reassure those Tories alarmed by Mrs May’s Ed Miliband lite policies. Despite his falling out with Cameron, Gove back in government would also reassure the Cameroons that Mrs May won’t trash the legacy of Cameron.

However there is history between Michael Gove and Mrs May and her staff, whilst the focus during this campaign has been on Nick Timothy, the other joint Chief of Staff Fiona Hill was forced out in 2014 when Gove and May clashed  when they were Education Secretary and Home Secretary, can Mrs May move on?

Whatever the result on Thursday, the election that was set to strengthen Mrs May is set to diminish her, to ensure that diminution need not be permanent if she gets in a better team, Michael Gove in the cabinet will enhance the government of Mrs May, she should bring him back, if she doesn’t it is clear she’s sticking with her current Chiefs of Staff, who have failed her so spectacularly this campaign.