Theresa May made laughable errors and she'll now go down as the worst prime minister in modern British history

The brutal truth is that she never deserved to win, much less win big

Sean O'Grady
Friday 09 June 2017 09:17 BST
Election 2017: How the night unfolded

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Theresa May might be lucky to go down in history as the shortest serving prime minister since the Earl of Bute. In 1762. And the worst.

The last British prime minister to have anything like this brief tenure was Sir Alec Douglas-Home, back in 1963-64. Unlike May, he did not have the option to call an early election as he arrived late in the parliament, and he almost won it against the odds. She may limp on because there's a dearth of talent in the Commons to replace her. But the Tory Party has never liked or tolerated figures it regards as underperforming. And they are ruthless when they turn – ask Iain Duncan Smith.

The brutal truth is that Theresa May did not deserve to win, and certainly not to win big, no matter what happened. She was a wooden campaigner. The advisers thought they were selling a confident and polished performer when she proved anything but.

She was supposed to be a collegiate leader – yet she dreamed up the notorious dementia tax with just a couple of close advisers. More than anything that did in her hopes of a landslide. The robotic delivery of soundbites, the policy confusion, the evasion of real voters, the open mockery she eventually succumbed to – all of it combined to make its own “coalition of chaos”. The irony of an unnecessary and overlong campaign called ostensibly to deliver a strong and stable administration has been well noted. Over the Budget and the election timing itself, there was far too much wobble – and too many U-turns – for that strong and stable mantra to sound right.

May really ought to have seen that a near two month campaign would eventually move off her stated agenda of Brexit and leadership, no matter how much she wanted parties and public to stick to her agenda. Labour was entitled to put its issues on the agenda and so its MPs gladly did.

The voters wanted to talk about what concerned them most. And events, such as the terror attacks, can have unpredictable consequences. A conventional short campaign of three weeks and Theresa May could have enjoyed quite a coup. But this wasn’t a conventional campaign, in any sense of the word.

As things stand, she has made herself a laughingstock here and in Europe. She had a working majority and Parliament passed Article 50, albeit grumpily. Brexit is now likely to be messier than it otherwise would be. She didn't need to gamble, and she's lost, and so will the country. Right now it is only a question of how big the losses and disappointments will be.

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