So there is a hard Theresa and a soft Theresa.
The hard Theresa has been subject to some searching assessment today.
First, Janan Ganesh in the FT (£), on her claim that Brussels bureaucrats were interfering in the British general election by leaking a derogatory account of her dinner with EU Commission president Junker.
To leak the gist of a private dinner is normal political sport. A near-verbatim account, couched in a snide tone, is a breach of trust that will be hard to mend. May says Juncker will find her ‘a bloody difficult woman’ No 10 tries to turn damaging Brexit dinner leak to prime minister’s advantage All the same, you would hope for a prime ministerial response that is consistent with the dignity of the office.
To be briefed against in such scurrilous detail by the commission and still emerge as the belligerent of the piece constitutes an achievement of sorts. But Mrs May’s speech was popular, say observers, and that insight, stated as though it settles the matter, has been worse than anything else. Whenever the prime minister says or does something demagogic, a certain kind of politico will tap the side of their nose, smile a wry smile and nod to the polls. “Ah,” they say, “but the nation loves it”, as if anyone disputes that.
The question is whether it is good for the nation. Mrs May is no longer an ambitious cabinet member who can be judged on her eye for a news story and her feel for the public mood. She is the leader of a major state that is about to undertake its most important work since the second world war. She may turn out to be a natural at it and negotiate fine exit terms, but that is the test..
More gently in the Times (£) Danny Finkelstein a Tory peer but for all that still an original commentator, advises Mrs May to seek a mandate as well as a landslide.
Mrs May would benefit from a mandate in three areas.
First, to support her desire to be an unconventional Conservative. Mrs May is not a Thatcherite. Because of all the talk about Brexit it is easy to ignore the way she has shifted Conservative thinking about the state,
The deficit risks being the great unmentioned issue of the election. After the campaign is over, the government can’t just leap out from behind the sofa and shout “surprise!” It will need public support and political understanding that could come from some frankness before June 8.
And third, there is Brexit. Whatever your view of the consequences of leaving the EU everyone agrees that Brexit will cost money in the short to medium term, and it is likely to result in instability. A reasonable deal may prove impossible, with the best will in the world. It’s quite obvious that other EU governments do not see it as in their interests for Brexit to be viewed as a success.
The time to lower expectations — to explain that things will be rocky and to outline how you will handle them — is now.
It would also be nice if she dropped just a hint or two about her ideas – if any- about Northern Ireland without an Executive and its future after Brexit.
The soft Theresa appeared on the One Show’s sofa on Monday night, the wow factor being husband Phillip. Predictably the Guardian found it “Pure Valium”. There was Theresa controlling all the way even with her eyes.
After a short break, the supreme leader went on to say she had met lots of different people from all walks of life while she was growing up in the vicarage but despite that had set her heart on being a Conservative MP. “It’s been said you wanted to be prime minister from a very young age,” Jones observed.
“I don’t recognise that,” the supreme leader replied.
“I only heard her saying she wanted to be prime minister when she joined the shadow cabinet,” said Philip, not altogether helpfully. The supreme leader shot him a death stare. Revealing she had had her eyes on the top job since 1999 wasn’t necessarily the look she was hoping for.
Prime Minister Theresa May has tonight come under fire after she said there are jobs for ‘boys and girls’ around the home.
The 60-year-old was on The One Show with her husband Philip, 59, and the pair discussed a number of non-political issues including her love of shoes.
During the first few minutes of the interview broadcast live on the BBC, the married couple were talking about living together.
Mrs May said there are specific ‘boys jobs and girl jobs’ around the house after her husband said that he takes the bins out at their home.
Mr May continued: ‘I definitely do the taking the bins out, I do the traditional boy jobs by and large.’
Her comment sparked outrage online.
Pamela Davenport tweeted: ‘Theresa May on #OneShow, won’t meet public, won’t meet journalists won’t debate. Sexist responses, job for the boys god help us #BBCBias’
I had one experience of the earlier woman PM and her spouse. In 1982 on a visit to Northern Ireland it was decided that Margaret Thatcher should make a short speech ( no interviews) from the safety of a room at RAF Aldergrove. I was BBC escort to husband Denis, her cheer leader in chief and secretary of state Jim Prior – the supreme “ wet “ and no Thatcher fan.
“Where can we see her”? Denis asked eagerly.
As the visit had been announced at short notice as was then usual, the OB arrangement in those days before sat vans was a bit of a lashup.
“We can see her on a small monitor in the back of the landrover, “ I said, fingers crossed.
Denis threw himself tummy down into the back of the landrover just as Margaret began, with Prior and myself leaning over him.
Minutes into her pronouncement, Denis turned round and beamed to us:
“Isn’t she wonderful?” he said.
I replied something like “ Very clear.” As Denis turned back to the tiny screen, Prior eyed the heavens.
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