Theresa May: unflappable but inscrutable
A prime minister’s first 100 days in office can be “an unreliable guide” to the fate of their premiership as a whole, said Sean O’Grady in The Independent. John Major, for instance, was “the most popular PM in history in the early days, only to be one of the least rated inside a couple of years”. Gordon Brown likewise enjoyed a decent honeymoon period before things went south for him. So we should perhaps be cautious about drawing too many conclusions about Theresa May from her first 100 days in power, which she completed last week. Things are likely to get much harder for the PM from here on in, said The Sunday Times. But it’s fair to say that she has got off to a solid start, adapting to her new leadership role with “the assurance of somebody who had always hoped, even expected, to do it”. May has certainly shown herself to be “unflappable”, said Peter Oborne in the Daily Mail. And she has brought a welcome change of style to Downing Street. There’s less focus on clever news management and sound bites, and more on traditional cabinet government. “Tony Blair’s notorious sofas have been jettisoned – and replaced with desks.” It is also now possible to speak of a political philosophy called “Mayism”. She supports socially conservative ideas such as expanding grammar schools and is an unashamed supporter of patriotism, yet she also believes the state has a role to play in protecting ordinary people from the excesses of global capitalism. May remains, for all that, something of an unknown quantity, said Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph. One EU leader complained that he learnt more from her Tory party conference speech than he did from meeting her. Among her colleagues, she is also “famous for giving almost nothing away”. Judging from the way May has challenged both the decades-old consensus on grammar schools and the convention that PMs don’t criticise Bank of England policy, she is clearly not afraid of making enemies. But whether she’s ready to back her bold words with action remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure: with the other political parties in utter disarray, she’ll never get a better opportunity to introduce radical reforms in this country. May faces little in the way of political opposition, agreed the FT. But on the other hand, she is hobbled by precarious public finances, the looming Brexit issue and a very narrow parliamentary majority. The last problem could be fixed by calling an early election, but she has pledged not to do so. So for now, at least, we’re left with a prime minister who is “somehow imperious and beleaguered at the same time”.