Oh Snap

Theresa May's Speech Shows She's Not Fit to Be Prime Minister

She still doesn't get it.
June 9, 2017, 2:54pm

"Now let's get to work." That was how Theresa May concluded her speech outside Downing Street.

Sorry, what?

Could some aide please lean over and whisper in her ear: "Prime Minister, this IS your work… Giving speeches in which you set out the policy direction of your government and galvanise the country behind you is what you are paid to do. It's not a trivial distraction from your work, so could you just pony up an idea or an insight or at least a bit of stirring rhetoric?"

Advertisement

You'd expect the hollow placeholder speech at 3AM, when politicians at their local count have to size up what's just happened. Then they mumble a few lines about "opportunity", "equality", "best for Britain", then flee to their huddle of advisers, brief the speechwriters.

This, though, was way past that point. This was a PM on her way back from Buckingham Palace, ready to rule, with a new ruling partner in tow, in the form of Queen-loving crankies the DUP.

Yet all we heard were stiff platitudes about how "every single community" would have its interests supported by her new government. Eh? We heard that Brexit should be delivered in the coming negotiations, a hollow retread of the hollow maxim of her campaign that she was best placed to deliver it. No words on what that Brexit looked like after being subjected to this earthquake, with the soft-favouring DUP now in tow, and with mounds of evidence beginning to stack up that ignored Remainers had taken their revenge on the PM.

We heard about terrorism – how she was going to continue with the implementation of largely unworkable new anti-terror crackdowns in the coming weeks, all of which had been hacked together only in the past week to opportunistically shore up her personal support.

The big frighteners of terrorism and Brexit had been the key motivators of the Conservatives' highly negative campaign. And here she was, assuming that if she shouted the same thing again but louder, then everyone would back down, finally get it, and things could go back to being how they were 24 hours ago.

Advertisement

Instead of bending to a new reality, after only 11 months in the power bubble May was expecting the new reality to bend to her. It sounded as dotty and out of touch as the final days of Thatcher.

A year ago, May had stood outside Downing Street and told everyone she got it – that she understood something had gone badly wrong for the white working class who'd felt Leave was their only option, for a youth being priced-out of being allowed to become adults in the first place. Her empty manifesto flagged big doubts over whether she did indeed "get it". And today has seen her give up on any sense that she "gets" anything. In fact, it sounds more and more like she is positively gifted at deafness. It takes a special kind of mind to blot out so much new information – perhaps the kind that could respond to interviewers with the kind of robotic blankness she displayed during the campaign. She could have said:

"Despite claiming the most seats and the most votes, it is obvious we have suffered a reversal, and in the coming days and weeks I will be working to regain the trust of the British people by listening more attentively to those who feel left behind, on Brexit, or within the broader economy"

But she didn't say that. And why? That sort of obvious mea culpa rhetorical widget is so basic I could come up with it. It could obviously have been stuffed anywhere into her tedious talk, to make it feel like she "got it", like there was some dialogue between her and the electorate, the true meaning of democracy rather than the binary fascism of the ballot box.

That it wasn't seems like the most glaring evidence that Theresa May, and/or the people behind her, just aren't up to the job.

@gavhaynes