If Theresa May is so hopeless, why is she dominant?

The  buzz from Twitter is not only deafening about  the account of the Junker-May dinner posted by David. Reaction to her two Sunday political interviews on the Marr and Peston shows  is just as scathing.

Marr politely put it to her straight away that the mantra of  “ strong and stable government “ might be “a bit robotic.”  Peston – though not to her face – that if  she goes on like this  “we’ll lose the will to live.”

Former Blairite Times columnist Phillip Collins, tweeted:

“ I am usually a strong defender of politics but this empty, choreographed, stale, boring Tory campaign essentially implies we are all idiots”.

From my old colleague Steve Richards on Andrew Neil’s Sunday politics show, his considered opinion  that May is “ no good at framing an argument” was countered not altogether convincingly by Tom Newton Dunn of the Sun.

“Maybe she knew Junker would leak and A fascinating feed. But looked at another way; what if May presumed Juncker would leak the lot so threw out handy election lines for effect?”

May fan Spectator editor Fraser Nelson confirms her focus on domestic politics and obligingly interprets the Sunday interviews for us.

Theresa May has perfected the art of saying nothing in interviews. The most any journalist can hope for is a subtle shift in position, or an absence where a position once stood. She seems to think that, if you refuse to give the press anything, the public won’t care. Worse, she seems to be right – for now, at least.

May to Peston But what I want to do is to ensure that when we do look more widely at the tax system, that what we say on the tax system, we’re absolutely clear that we can deliver on it for people.

Interpretation: When I say ‘no plans to increase tax’ that’s not quite true: my last Budget shows I plan to increase the tax haul by about £125bn over the next five years. So taxes would go to 37.2pc of GDP. I just haven’t said how. But let’s save that until after the poor suckers have elected me, eh! And let’s try that “no plans” line for now, even though it ain’t true. As for VAT, it is already at an eye-watering 20pc, so it probably won’t go any higher. But if I give a pledge on that and not on other taxes: well, I think that speaks for itself, don’t you? 

Remember, these interviews were conducted before the manifesto is even written so she was bound to be as evasive in public about the domestic agenda as she was apparently artlessly revealing in private  (supposedly)  to Junker about her Art 50 strategy.

So May is a puzzle. The Conservative poll lead has narrowed slightly  but is still commanding. Unfortunately for bloggers and other commentators who love disputation, the popular judgement on a governing party relies very little on the leader’s eloquence. One seasoned observer put it to me this way: ” she’ll either crash out in two years or go on for ten, Right now we just can’t tell which”. It will hang on her judgement of Brexit.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London