Treading wa­ter will not save UK from cir­cling EU sharks

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Femail -

THAT the Prime Min­is­ter was the vic­tim of a se­ries of un­for­tu­nate events this week – none of which were her fault – can­not be doubted. But in pol­i­tics in­con­se­quen­tial mo­ments have con­se­quences.

In Septem­ber 1983, Glenys Kin­nock bought a new pair of suede boots. They were ex­pen­sive. Stylish. Chic.

They were bought ahead of the Labour Party con­fer­ence in Brighton where her hus­band, Neil, was cer­tain to be de­clared the new leader.

On the Sun­day af­ter­noon of con­fer­ence, in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the re­sult, a Labour Party aware they needed to be more me­dia savvy than they had been un­der Michael Foot, of­fered a pic­ture op­por­tu­nity for the press, Neil and Glenys walk­ing along the beach in a lov­ing thought­ful pose look­ing out – vi­sion­ary style – over the waves.

Un­for­tu­nately, one of those waves threat­ened to wet­ten Glenys’s new boots. As any­one who had spent so much money on her new footwear would, she danced away from the wa­ter and in do­ing so brought her hus­band down onto the sand.

The press had their pic­ture, just not the one Labour wanted. He man­aged to stand but po­lit­i­cally he never re­ally got up.

The new leader had fallen over before his vic­tory had been de­clared. At a mo­ment when he should have been able to walk on wa­ter he couldn’t walk on sand.

Some­times it is more im­por­tant to be lucky than good.

That Theresa May said sorry to her party for this year’s elec­tion re­sult was right. But hu­mil­ity is most prized when it comes from the strong and pow­er­ful – not from the weak and, now, hu­mil­i­ated.

That her big­gest idea was one of Ed Miliband’s – a cap on en­ergy bills – was piti­ful. I know from ex­pe­ri­ence that pick­ing Ed Miliband’s brains doesn’t take long and is rarely re­ward­ing.

She is locked in a nar­ra­tive the end­ing of which we all know – her po­lit­i­cal demise. The only ten­sion that threat­ens to hold the reader is the man­ner of her leav­ing, which could come at any mo­ment. But even that is a hack­neyed script.

What un­der­pins her po­si­tion is neg­a­tiv­ity. What­ever Brexit deal is struck will please no one – nei­ther Leaver or Re­mainer. That is the na­ture of com­pro­mise. The process of get­ting to one will be tor­tu­ous and hu­mil­i­at­ing.

Any­one with a brain in their head who wants to take over from her will want to wait to blame the deal and its short term eco­nomic con­se­quences on their pre­de­ces­sor. Per­haps that partly ex­plains why Boris John­son is so keen to take over now.

Yet her weak­ness threat­ens to make that Brexit deal even worse. Anaemic as she ap­pears, EU ne­go­tia­tors smell her blood in the wa­ter.

She will be bul­lied in Brussels as much as she is around her Down­ing Street cab­i­net ta­ble.

NOW EU ne­go­tia­tors are even taunt­ing her by talk­ing to Jeremy Cor­byn to can­vass his views on Brexit. The Labour leader may be a real elec­toral threat but even that is a sign of her weak­ness.

Put it this way, The Wurzels never man­aged to get a No 1 sin­gle when The Bea­tles were to­gether. They did when Showad­dy­waddy were at their height.

On a hu­man level it is dis­tress­ing to watch Theresa May go through this hu­mil­i­a­tion. De­stroyed by a cough, her ca­reer could be over if some­one sneezes.

To watch that icon of dis­loy­alty Michael Gove, how­ever re­pen­tant, pledg­ing his undy­ing al­le­giance to her on our tele­vi­sion screens was not with­out irony. But the con­se­quences for the coun­try and our cul­ture of her per­se­ver­ing could be even more dam­ag­ing than her res­ig­na­tion.

Pol­i­tics at its best is about build­ing a new future. With Theresa May at the helm our pol­i­tics is about hap­less de­cay.

It is time for the men in grey suits to look out their dark­est threads. Rather than let the nation watch a woman whose sin­cer­ity seems to be in in­verse pro­por­tion to her abil­ity slowly and painfully wither, they ought to act.

The famed Tory party grandees need to agree on one can­di­date to present to the coun­try as Prime Min­is­ter to get us through the Brexit process. There is not the space for a lead­er­ship con­test.

That may sound like a tall or­der but if they can­not find agree­ment be­tween them­selves on a new leader – and it can­not be Boris John­son – then what hope is there for them cut­ting a deal with the EU about our future?

We have fragility at the top of gov­ern­ment when we need the fa­bled strength and sta­bil­ity Theresa May tried and failed to de­liver.

We don’t have the lux­ury of wait­ing for her to prove that she is as tough as new boots.

THE Tory Party con­fer­ence was not as well at­tended by MPs as nor­mal, with hun­dreds not go­ing to Manch­ester. There could be reper­cus­sions.

One of them told me: “I didn’t think my ab­sence would be noted. Then I re­mem­bered I was in charge of bring­ing the Blu Tack.”

Sticky wicket.

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