Spare your tears for Theresa May – she doesn’t deserve an ounce of sympathy

She is surely the worst prime minister in British political history, rivalled only by her predecessor. The tradition of writing the legacy of departing leaders needs to end now

James Moore
Thursday 23 May 2019 14:02
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Who could replace Theresa May as Tory leader?

I’m not a man of wealth and you can argue over taste, but one thing I’m clear about: the devil that is Theresa May will not be deserving of one jot of sympathy when she finally leaves No 10 Downing Street for the last time.

There was something Shakespearean about the demise of Margaret Thatcher. May’s has more resembled an unfunny Carry On movie on continuous loop. But with the end sort of nigh, there were signs of the odd tribute emerging from the Westminster village yesterday.

Political correspondents were breathlessly talking about the prime minister’s dedication to public service, the impossible job she faced, her resolve, how history may judge her more kindly than she is being judged today.

Perhaps it was the type 1 diabetic in me – I require medication, the supply of which was threatened when she was running down the clock in an attempt to coerce MPs into backing her dismal Brexit deal – that pushed my blood pressure up to unhealthy levels when I heard this.

Maybe it was because I spend a lot of time speaking to other people with disabilities who’ve been worrying themselves sick, or business people whose life’s work has been torn down by the behaviour of May and her party, but enough already. Enough.

It’s as if May hasn’t had choices as the Brexit tragicomedy has rolled on. Some commentators appear to want to suggest she’s had no agency in the process, that despite holding the most powerful office in the land she has been Brexit’s victim rather than one of its chief villains.

It’s lazy thinking, and it’s demonstrably false. Cast your mind back and you’ll see she started off with political capital she really didn’t deserve, given her record at the “hostile environment” Home Office.

A left-of-centre friend of mine who listened to her “country that works for everyone” speech on the Downing Street steps said they were prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt. That here was a leader he could get behind. And there were many like him before she set about systematically blowing things up.

She called a general election in pursuit of a mandate, only to run from the electorate. She drew those infamous “red lines” that backed Britain into a corner in its negotiations with the European Union. She cleaved to the extreme wing of her party every time there was a debate to be had.

Moderates were bullied and berated. A number of them quit. And look how the zealots have rewarded her. It is they who are positively salivating as they prepare to carve her up. Her perception of the interests of that party, and of her legacy, have been elevated over those of her country at every opportunity.

A half-hearted attempt to reach across the floor of the House of Commons to find consensus was too little, too late. She should have done that at the start, after she had lost her majority. Instead she opted to work with the religious fundamentalists of the DUP.

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Want more? Grenfell and her government’s dismal response. The poverty festering in Britain that the United Nations has highlighted and she has done nothing to address. Universal credit, one of the causes. And especially the Windrush scandal, which saw people invited to come and live here, who contributed to this country and became British citizens, put on planes out of the country through having the wrong colour of skin.

This has all been said before. But it seems it needs to be said again, and again, and again, as sympathy she absolutely does not deserve begins to emerge, even while the Faragists swagger and pout and her colleagues compete with each other for the title of Mini-Me to the failed city boy broker who leads them.

No, the tradition of sending off departing leaders with a few kind words before the serious analysis of legacy begins needs to end with this one. May has been some kind of monster. Put yourself in the position of one of those Britons being put on a plane and tell me I’m wrong. And that’s just your starter for 10.

She is surely the worst prime minister in British political history, rivalled only by her predecessor. The only thing to say in her favour is that she will very soon lose that title to her successor, given the rabble lining up to pitch for her job.

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