Maybe it is bet­ter be­ing a lucky PM than a good one

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Comment - PAUL SIN­CLAIR

THE ac­ci­den­tal Prime Min­is­ter might be an in­ci­den­tal ge­nius. Or maybe, like a good Napoleonic gen­eral, she’s just lucky. Theresa May was the Tory chair­man who dubbed her out­fit the ‘nasty party’ – yet she sur­vived.

In govern­ment, she was handed the grave­yard of many po­lit­i­cal ca­reers – the Home Of­fice. Even with Lib­eral Democrats as coali­tion part­ners, she sur­vived.

She missed im­mi­gra­tion tar­gets, was the ar­chi­tect of the Win­drush scan­dal and the ‘hos­tile’ en­vi­ron­ment for those com­ing into this coun­try – yet she sur­vived.

A Brex­i­teer by in­stinct but a Re­mainer by thought, she largely hid dur­ing the EU ref­er­en­dum that David Cameron so fool­ishly called. Had he not lost that vote she might have been a reshuf­fled foot­note in his­tory. But he lost and she won.

Even when he re­signed, she was not the favourite. Boris John­son should have be­come the leader – but then he was knifed by Michael Gove. An­drea Lead­som was an un­likely favourite who then im­ploded.

The Prime Min­is­ter by de­fault then called a gen­eral elec­tion she didn’t need to call. She blew a 20 per cent lead in the polls with one of the worst cam­paigns of re­cent times and lost a Tory ma­jor­ity. Yet she sur­vived.

The ‘dead woman walk­ing’ walks on.

Handed the worst hand of any Prime Min­is­ter since Neville Cham­ber­lain, she is ne­go­ti­at­ing a Brexit deal that she does not be­lieve in.

PO­LIT­I­CAL ri­vals have walked out of her Cabi­net in protest at her Che­quers deal; EU part­ners have said they re­ject her pro­pos­als – and yet she sur­vives. Theresa May has lit­tle charisma. She is eas­ily writ­ten off. But if you look at her record, it is dif­fi­cult not to come to the con­clu­sion that she is the ul­ti­mate po­lit­i­cal sur­vivor.

Op­po­nents, such as her re­signed Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davies, like to com­ment on the na­ture of ne­go­ti­a­tions. Talk of gam­bits and po­si­tion­ing. Clever think­ing.

Theresa May does not – yet she has out-manou­vred Boris John­son who, even with the ruth­less Ja­cob Rees-Mogg at his sleeve, can­not raise the num­bers to chal­lenge her.

To be fair, there are peo­ple close to Num­ber Ten who will tell you that hers is a hand-to-mouth ex­is­tence; that there is no strat­egy other than to sur­vive the day.

But the point is that she does sur­vive. What book­maker would bet against her?

There are many suit­ors who would like to suc­ceed her, but few who would like to fill her shoes right now.

Hers is a poi­soned chal­ice few want to sup from un­til it is drained.

No one can be cer­tain about what the next six months will de­liver as the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions go on.

Theresa May’s po­si­tion seems to be to de­liver Brexit in name only. In that there is sense. She will nei­ther ig­nore what we call the will of the peo­ple ex­pressed in the 2016 ref­er­en­dum nor im­ple­ment an act of self-harm. She will not pan­der to the ex­tremes of her party nor al­low it to fall apart.

In this, she is ex­er­cis­ing her sense of duty, how­ever un­com­fort­able the busi­ness of do­ing that might ap­pear.

Theresa May might be a politi­cian of yes­ter­year. Some­one, like Cle­ment At­tlee or Gor­don Brown, who does not have much charisma but who does have a sense of pur­pose.

It is said of politi­cians that his­tory will be kin­der to them than cur­rent crit­ics are. That is cold com­fort.

But Theresa May should at least be given a de­gree of re­spect.

Granted, her han­dling has not been fault­less but who else would want to hold this par­tic­u­lar ball at this par­tic­u­lar time?

What­ever her faults, we have a Prime Min­is­ter who is a sur­vivor. Maybe that means we’ll all sur­vive this cur­rent up­heaval too.

SUR­VIVOR: Theresa May has so far over­come all the po­lit­i­cal odds

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