Treading water will not save UK from circling EU sharks
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.”