Tory manifesto: Never mind Thatcher, Theresa May is one cigar short of the full Castro

As Theresa May launched the Conservative manifesto, it was déjà vu all over again, but not as you’ve ever heard before

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Thursday 18 May 2017 18:21 BST
If she’d been puffing on a Cohiba the PM would have been a dead ringer for the late Fidel
If she’d been puffing on a Cohiba the PM would have been a dead ringer for the late Fidel (Reuters)

With Theresa May, if you ever find yourself wondering, “where have I heard this before?” the answer is usually yesterday, when she said exactly the same thing.

But somehow this was different. I was by no means alone in struggling to process this bizarre, cognitively dissonant déjà vu. Around the room there were the usual murmurings, of how she was as ever haunted by the ghost of Thatcher, but there in everyone’s hands was a dark blue document that impaled Thatcher’s Britain on a kitten heel, the 2017 Conservative manifesto.

In my own case, it took several minutes to suddenly realise where I had seen it all before. It just so happens I was in Cuba last week.

“We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism.”

I am 99 per cent sure I saw these exact words sprayed on a billboard above the word “Fidel” at a busy intersection on the road to Havana. And now here they were on the “Principles” page of the Conservative Party manifesto.

“We know that our responsibility to one another is greater than the rights we hold as individuals.”

Viva la revolucion!

“We know that we all have obligations to one another, because that is what community and nation demands.”

Hasta la victoria siempre!

The likenesses are stark. Here stands a country primed and ready to turn in on itself, to reject utterly how the world actually works, to think it can turn back the clock just for itself and no one else. To go it alone.

In fact, you don’t even need to have been to Cuba. Most of this stuff was carved on to a giant block of granite unveiled by Ed Miliband in a Hastings car park two years ago.

A cap on energy prices anyone? Controls on immigration? That’ll be déjà vu all over again.

There is an old theory in advertising that you must always tell the biggest lie you can but absolutely no bigger. Pitch your deception right up against the boundary of the believable and you might get away with a whopper of jawdropping proportions: but an inch too far and you’ll soon find everyone laughing at you.

There is a reason, for example, that everybody can still remember the multi-millionaire Ryan Giggs appearing on the television to tell them Quorn sausages were the most delicious thing he has ever eaten, and it’s not because everybody suddenly rushed out to buy them and were confounded to discover he was right.

And so we turn then to the two words in giant letters behind the Prime Minister’s head as she launched this Conservative manifesto: Forward Together.

Will she get away with it? Forward to 1972? Forward to the greatest leap backwards any advanced society has ever taken? Together? Can a nation ever really come together to get on with the most divisive act it has ever undertaken in its history?

Why are we even asking? Of course she will. You don’t even need to have noticed that she was standing in the middle of a disused carpet mill in Halifax, a northern working town that will almost certainly return a Conservative to Westminster in three weeks’ time to realise that.

Still, at least at the Dean Clough Mill in Halifax, it is arguably the future not the past that provides the clearer guide to the present. It’s a “cultural space” now, this grand old mill, and the stage to which the Prime Minister took is more used to playing host to the Angry Bavarian Stompers, a Halifax-hailing oompah band of such stratospheric success they even get booked to play bierfests in Germany.

“Every vote for me is a vote to strengthen my hand in the Brexit negotiations,” she said for the ten thousandth time, gearing up for the battle between The Bloody Difficult Woman and the Angry Bavarian Stomper.

She could scarcely, by the way, have given any clearer indication of who’s going to win that one. “No deal is better than a bad deal,” it says in navy blue and white on page 18 of Forward Together, a point of view virtually no one believes, and yet which ten million people or more will almost certainly accidentally agree with via the ballot box.

And yet, here was the Prime Minister not even agreeing with herself. “Our future prosperity, our place in the world, our standard of living and the opportunities we want for our children – each and every one depends on having the strongest possible hand as we enter those negotiations.”

She carried on: “If we fail [to get a deal], the consequences for Britain and for the economic security of ordinary working people will be dire.”

Every vote for me will deepen my begging bowl. Every vote for me will mean I can wail all the louder for them to please, please, please be nice to us.

Of course, we have long known that the real task at hand, the real job to be getting on with, is the pre-apportioning of blame for the failure of Brexit, and it should be noted that we’re now well in to the phase of warning it is distinctly likely to be a true disaster.

A Prime Minister who, for example, “rejects untrammelled free markets” surely cannot in good conscience govern a country in which 18 per cent of its wealth comes from a single square mile in the City of London. So when that prosperity has upped and left for New York, Frankfurt and Dublin, it can be rebadged as a tremendous success.

But there was, of course, one huge way in which Ms May has diverted from her new communist heroes. Left-wing dictators are not known for rejecting the idea they are ideologically motivated. Fidel, Che and the rest never left you in any doubt about their motivations. When they requested “strong and stable leadership” they didn’t leave you wondering, with a growing sense of fear and dread as they vanquished all opposition, what on earth they might actually want to do with it.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in