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.

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  • Korhomme

    Marr asked May about nurses using food banks. May answered that there were many reasons to use a food bank. Marr then didn’t ask her what these were. Hunger and poverty, I’d say. Any others?

  • Obelisk

    I thought the answer was obvious. Nobody within her political arena, not Corbyn, not Farron, is capable of taking her on due to their respective incompetence and weakness. She is backed by the right wing press and has embraced the right wing of her own party to avoid the fate of all her predecessors. Both the right wing press and the the right wing of her party are still intoxicated by their victory in the referendum, and she channels that now as their flagbearer.

    Outside the arena, when she faces politicians she has to work with who have their own mandates, the limitations of her position become apparent. They care nothing for the views of the Daily Mail in Berlin or Brussels, nor do they have to pander to a population who fell hook, line and sinker for the lies of the leave campaign and regard pointing out that they fell hook, line and sinker for the lies of the leave campaign as mocking their intelligence.

    Long story short, she is dominant within her small pond because her opposition (outside of the SNP, who are limited by their geographical scope) is laughable and powerful forces within that pond are buoying her up. Outside the pond she is revealed for the minnow she is.

  • epg_ie

    Embodies what the English people want from politics right now: the insipid reassurance of Nothing. The minute Something happens, she will be shown up. Something will be either the reality (as opposed to the identity politics) of Brexit, or the apparent oncoming Anglosphere/global economic slowdown.

  • hgreen

    Why is she so dominant? I’d have thought that’s obvious. She’s being controlled by the right wing media in the U.K..

    If you don’t think “crush the saboteurs” is sinister you really aren’t a democrat.

    She’s basically an empty vessel. This is a remainer who’s now a hard brexiter. She stands for nothing apart from her own personal approval and advancement.

  • hgreen

    Would that be the same useless opposition that she says has forced her to seek her own mandate? Ditch this cliche of the opposition being useless. They aren’t. We just have a UK media that is desperately right wing.

  • Conchúr Ó Conghaile

    Theresa May has always been a no hoper. Her career in the home office was pretty undistinguished. She’s like a tribute act to Maggie but without Thatcher’s cunning ideological zeal and single mindedness.

    When the excrement hits the fan. I don’t think Theresa May is going to be much use

  • Brian Walker

    64 million British? If that’s a small pond what are Scotland and Ireland north and south? Puddles?

  • Conchúr Ó Conghaile

    Her small pond is the Tory party not Britain.

  • the keep

    A bit like the person in your avatar!

  • Korhomme

    And mostly the swivel-eyed loon section of the Tories; certainly it is to them that she looks.

  • Korhomme

    You do know who is reputed to have said ‘crush the saboteurs’ first?

  • Salmondnet

    The BBC, Channel Four, The Guardian, the Independent, The Mirror, all desperately right wing. Hmmm.

  • Conchúr Ó Conghaile

    Jim Connolly was a hero.

  • Conchúr Ó Conghaile

    The BBC certainly is anyway with the likes of Laura Kuennesberg and Nick Robinson

  • Obelisk

    Here is a question.

    How do you remain a great, global power while simultaneously disengaging from the political structures that magnified your influence?

    The answer is you don’t.

    Britain hasn’t been a great power since the Empire collapsed. No European country has. Instead they have relied upon the structures of the EU to pool and magnify their influence on the occasions where they have agreed.

    The British government has fallen prey to almost a psychosis that can leave the EU and still retain the impact on the world they had.

    They will not, as they maybe beginning to discover in the wake of last week’s encounter with Juncker.

    Theresa May, and all future British Prime Ministers, will now find themselves absolute masters of the United Kingdom, or what may remain of it in the coming decades. Within the confines of ‘that sceptred isle’ they will be all powerful.

    Outside they will be at the mercy of the fancies of the true Great powers of our world, the United States, the European Union (basically a Franco-German axis if it can persuade the rest of the group), Russia (albeit for it the moment, Russia’s own decay is catching up with it)and China.

    In other words, just another bog standard medium sized country whose interests play second fiddle to the big players.

    The English voted to be alone Brian. This is part of the consequences of that.

  • billypilgrim1

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

    1. She is the front-person for practically every major centre of concentrated power in Britain: including a media that has pretty much abandoned even the pretence of journalistic ethics at this stage; and much of the Labour Party itself.

    2. The leader of the opposition has failed to prevent himself from being framed as the most conspicuously useless political leader in living memory. (Quite aside from whether he is or not – which he sort of is, and sort of isn’t.)

  • billypilgrim1

    Lenin, wasn’t it?

    Peter Hitchens has this theory that the Conservative Party is now essentially New Labour Mk II, and that New Labour itself was the creation of a bunch of unreconstructed Eurocommunists schooled in Marxist-Leninism, who wanted to affect cultural revolution.

    Maybe this idea isn’t as mad it appears at first glance?

  • billypilgrim1

    Ireland and Scotland are featherweights who know they are featherweights.

    There’s no shortage of honour to be had by being a featherweight. Is anyone going to say that a great featherweight like our beloved Barry McGuigan was a lesser man than a useless heavyweight like Audley Harrison?

    England is a middleweight that thinks it’s a heavyweight. It might make a very good middleweight, if it didn’t regard stepping down a couple of weight classes as an intolerable indignity. So it will instead have to suffer the genuine indignity of being sent to the canvas, repeatedly, until it learns a more realistic sense of itself.

  • billypilgrim1

    Right wing / left wing – these are the wrong terms, apt to lead to confusion.

    The divide now is between Insiders and Outsiders. All the media organisations you mention are, to one extent or another, are Insiders. (The left-wing Guardian is one of the worst.)

    Power is concentrated in very few hands these days. As the great George Carlin put it: It’s a big club – and you ain’t in it!

  • Korhomme

    Yes, as I understand it.

    Hitchen’s idea certainly has some sense; although I do sense that the new Tories have a distinct streak of fascism in them.

  • 1729torus

    And Maggie was doing an imitation of Churchill back in the Falklands…

  • hgreen

    The Guardian has hammered Corbyn since day 1 of his leadership. The BBC is basically in the Tories pockets and the Independent is irrelevant. That leaves the Mirror maybe.

  • hgreen

    How can you address 2 with number 1 being an issue.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    “what if May presumed Juncker would leak the lot”

    LOL – she’s not that smart.

  • murdockp

    Tony Blair was once the future too. As was cameron. She is no different to an x factor contestant. History will judger her harshly.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Exactly put. The same process which Spain and Portugal followed in their retreat from empire is being followed by the English. If they end up a little more influential than those two they will be lucky..

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    No need for a “Hmmm” it is in fact the case. Channel 4 might be slightly to the left of the rest but not by much, and the Mirror is just a comic, like the Independent is (mostly). They are all establishment mouthpieces, and anyone in a position to disagree will not have a job within which to do so.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    A stunning lack of journalistic integrity.But what can you expect from a pig but a grunt (which, I understand, is an old Irish saying – and an extremely useful one to my mind).

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Compare it to the population of the EU Brian. 510 million according to Google. It’s not clear if that includes the UK or not but either way, a much bigger pond. Nine times as large approximately. How many times has one person taken on nine, or ten taken on ninety, and won? (Excluding occasions where ‘we’ had the Maxim Gun, and they had not, as in this case ‘they’ if anyone, have the Maxim Gun).

  • the rich get richer

    Because the others are really really bad…….

    She was in the Home Office for ( was it 6 years ) and did not have that many scandals or big Problems . The Home Office has often being a difficult Ministry for previous incumbents .

    I think people under-estimate her……Time will tell…it pretty much always does in the end….

  • Reader

    hgreen: How can you address 2 with number 1 being an issue.
    Step 1 – get the support of your own MPs.

  • aquifer

    Big payments to Europe up front, overwhelming uncertainty, retail inflation, austerity

    Why would she do anything but steer the argument back to Corbyn? She no fool.

  • Zorin001

    Fascism may be a bit too strong a word (except for a few of the swivel eyed on the backbenches), but there’s a definite Authoritarian streak that harkens back to the Thatcher era.

  • ted hagan

    ‘History will judge her harshly.’

    Do you know next week’s lottery numbers by any chance?

  • ted hagan

    Missing a trick perhaps, but what on earth has it to do with ‘integrity’ .

  • murdockp

    No, but how can she be judged anything other than badly?

    The British economy is already haemorrhaging jobs, investment has stalled, the city of London financial services trade is being picked of by EU vulture cities and Brexit hasn’t even started yet.

  • ted hagan

    I think that’s getting a bit ahead of yourself. If what you say is ‘history’, then I’m a banana.

  • murdockp

    OK, lets reconvene this debate in five years and see who is right, I have to say I fell pretty confident in my predictions.

    If I stand in front of a bus coming towards me at 70 miles per hour, we know it won’t end well as past experience and common sense tells us what is going to happen.

    Like wise Brexit, we know from past experience that countries which leave trading blocks will suffer great economic hardship, no better example the Irish Republic leaving the United Kingdom when it was granted independence, it took 60 years to claw back the economic output lost. Also New Zealand economy crashed when the UK joined the EU, those are the first two that spring to mind.

  • ted hagan

    Fair enough, I am a Remainer but hold out hope of a ‘soft’ deal between UK and the EU. Let’s face it, an economic disaster for the UK spells disaster for Ireland.

  • Pang

    The Brits love May because she keeps it simple. In a complex world full of wishy-washy leaders who tell us little people that because of blah blah “details” we can’t get what we want, she keeps her message straight and pure.

  • Pang

    After this election we will have to stop writing-off the Tories as an English party. Sounds like they could overtake labour in Scotland & even Wales. Brexit makes Scottish independance less likely, not more likely as the cost & risk of leaving is higher. Maybe she will be remembered as the PM who saved the union.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Journalistic integrity implies that the journalist has a desire to ask the hard questions (no matter who the subject is), which the subject would usually like to avoid, and which we should know the answer to, rather than giving them an easy time of it. Surely this is obvious? Or would you rather politicians just got to spout any old guff they please with no-one trying to make them adhere to some approximation of the truth?

    The integrity bit implies that the journalist has ethical standards that allow him or her be independent enough to do that.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Completely delusional. For example Nicola Surgeon is on an approval rating of +14, while Ruth Davison is on -21. The tories are still less popular in Scotland than they were when Thatcher was in power (and you remember how we loved her!) They will probably lose the one seat they hold, and if they happen to gain another one or two elsewhere, it will be because die-hard unionist ex-Labour supporters have nowhere else to go.

  • hugh mccloy

    There has always been an attitude than in NI we are braver and smater than anyone else or more Irish than any other or more British than anyone in the Kingdom.

    Reality is we are small fish in a big ocean, sound bites calling people stupid appeal to the masses in this country. Easily led tribes that go to war on the ballot sheets, as George Bush Jr is reported to have said “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you need to concentrate on”

  • ted hagan

    It’s to do with competence, rather than integrity.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    GB Jnr wasn’t nearly smart enough to have said that. It was probably one of his handlers.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    I’ve got a monkey wants to meet you.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    No. Competence is nothing – it can be laid aside at any time for partisan reasons, if you don’t have integrity to back it up.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    It’s as mad as a bag of spanners. There is, with the best will in the world, no connection between Marxism-Leninism and New Labour. They are antithetical. Peter Hitchens is as nuts as his brother was.

  • billypilgrim1

    No connection between Marxist-Leninism and New Labour:

    There’s Peter Mandelson, Alan Milburn, Charles Clarke, Jack Straw, John Reid, David Triesman, Charlie Whelan, Stephen Byers, Paul Boateng, Bob Ainsworth. All avowedly Marxist-Leninist activists early in their careers. That’s a lot of connections, in fairness.

  • grumpy oul man

    Yes and it’s such a simple problem as well,
    No reason to bother the great unwashed with the details just tell them it will all be fine and mother May will put a plaster on anything that hurts.
    Do the English love Teresa,?wait until after the election to claim that .

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Youthful idealism. They all reverted to their natural toryism long ago.