Late Election Special: Theresa May

Between you and I, I’m very worried about Theresa May. The Prime Minister’s election campaign, that resulted in the legacy annulling, reputation destroying constitutional calamity of a hung parliament, might be the greatest act of political self-harm in decades. Not since Ted Heath dared the nation to match his sense of self-importance and gift him more seats, despite already having a working majority, has an incumbent Premier murdered their party’s prospects with such abandon. Wasteful? Disgraceful? John Rentoul? You better believe it. The 2017 election was worse than a defeat for the Tories; they now face the prospect of having to navigate the most turbulent political waters since the Second World War with no majority, no authority and no idea what to do next.

The conscious part of May’s mind might have hoped for a landslide but it’s now clear that her unconscious badly wanted to lose the election. One can imagine her having dreams in which Tory bodies were loaded onto carts and dumped on kindling, the ashen faced PM watching quietly as the thick plume from consumed futures billowed toward Brussels. This was a death drive election; the kind of campaign someone fronts when they’ve lost all connection with the human race and hope for deliverance. Desolate Tories will ask why their copper, verdigris-tinged talisman didn’t just go on a stabbing spree and wait for armed police.

May spent the campaign aloof and miserable, vexed by its absurd demands, namely that she interact with samples of those she presumed to represent, and sell them some sort of coherent vision for the future, consisting of more than long pauses, sharp intakes of breath and stolid phrase making. Brexit, she thought, would absent her from those outmoded expectations. What did the people need to know, other than she’d be fighting the good fight, the proxy for formally disenfranchised working class voters with whom she had nothing in common? She’d pre-fought the campaign she believed, circumventing its tricky complications. And a good job too – she hated people. Can you imagine having to justify yourself to such an ignorant bunch of bastards for seven weeks? Seven weeks?! That’s nearly a gutful.

Calls for the PM to explain herself to the man and the woman in the street (“cunts”, lest me forget, according to Sid Vicious), must have fed Theresa’s sub-conscious realisation that she was the wrong person, in the wrong party, vying for the wrong job. A prisoner of childhood indoctrination and social background – the Vicar’s daughter, a provincial non-entity, she naturally gravitated toward the Conservatives, a party that vouchsafed her aspic frozen, closed worldview. But interaction with its grass roots and election to its parliamentary ranks, lead to the accruing of doubt. This was mind sediment. And as it built, layer on layer, May started to feel its weight in her skull. One could see the tension in her face and neck muscles.

When she famously warned the Conservative conference they were thought of as “the nasty party”, something that had never seriously occurred to any ideological Tory, she inadvertently gifted a soundbite to the party’s enemies, the stock of which rose year on year. Many Tories never forgave the slight, nor the imposition of reality, but this bold observation was the first sign of May’s self-loathing and closet desire to have that hatred validated and reinforced by her colleagues.

Despite this, May’s burning ambition, tethered to fragile self-worth, the thread no more than a hair’s width, compelled her to rise in the ranks and in the early months of the year, seek a personal mandate. Her majority belonged to David Cameron after all, and she owed her crown to his mistakes. The public would have to be involved, worst luck, because without them she’d be an accidental Prime Minister in the eyes of her elected European counterparts, and a fraud when pitted against insufferable opposition like the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Salmond or something – a sanctimonious browbeater with nation leading pretensions.

As ever in politics, it’s not the cynicism that kills you, it’s your inability to hide it. Opposition parties dutifully, strategically, pointed out that May had timed the triggering of Article 50 to lock in Leave voters and boost her personal standing. Had May called the election in the national interest as she claimed, she’d surely have done it before we were tied to Brexit, thereby gifting us the chance to get out of it. But to do that would throw away the opportunity to consolidate the Tory vote – realigning the right, as well as the chance to command a reluctant consensus. No party with ambitions to govern dared run on a remain ticket, and Tory commitment to seeing separation through to the bitter end, staying in the car until it filled with carbon monoxide, seemed the most robust.

If May had been a consummate media performer, exuding a warmth and wit that cut across all groups, she might easily have convinced people that conferring greater power on her was a strong and stable idea. Unfortunately, when charged with wasting voters’ time and attempting to gerrymander the House of Commons in her favour, striking while Labour doddered and stuttered under a bewildered looking Jeremy Corbyn, she chose to hide from her accusers, instead opting to talk to handfuls of handpicked ballot botherers, rather than directly to unfiltered millions on television and radio.

When her manifesto was published, highly anticipated by hopeful right-wing hacks who dared to dream of its riches, the suspicions of many voters, that she’d gone to the country with no fucking idea what to do when re-elected, perhaps because part of her dared not contemplate victory, was confirmed. The wretched document, rather than reading like a great work of economics and philosophy, proved empty, bar a bold commitment to force the grieving families of recently deceased parents to sell the family home to pay the old man or woman’s social care bill.

Forcing asset rich clans to stump up, challenging the inviolability of inherited wealth – the idea that you should get a free house because a relative worked and paid for it, was a work of agitation worthy of an original thinker. Naturally, the public hated it. There aren’t many legitimate get rich quick schemes out there.

So May’s calculations were scrawled on a giant white board and displayed for all the nation to see. And let’s be clear – a part of her, the dominant part, wanted us to see them. Unable to communicate and incapable of selling herself as a visionary, Theresa fulfilled her destiny, a path she’d forged in dreams, off-the-cuff asides and rhetoric belying actions. She went to the country asking for its verdict and sure enough it came, as clear and brutal as feared.

Self-harmers know they’ll be pain. You can’t cut into your own flesh and not suffer. But what they’re really doing is asking for delivery from torment – help from their better adjusted, happier peers. The public have told Theresa what to do. Leave politics and be happy. The only question that remains is whether she has the strength to take their advice.

Yes, I’m worried about Theresa May and I hope she finds peace very soon.

Tomorrow: Jeremy Corbyn

Published in: on June 10, 2017 at 13:33  Leave a Comment  
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