The more we see of Theresa May, the less she seems like a leader

This is from the Mainly Macro blog, written by Oxford professor Simon Wren-Lewis, and is about as damningly-accurate a judgement of Theresa May as you’ll find:

Take, as an another example, Theresa May. Some of us may laugh at the endless repetition of ‘strong and stable’, but good propaganda is always based on a half-truth, and the half truth here is that many voters do think she is a cautious operator and a safe pair of hands. It is likely most people get this belief not from a detailed examination of her past actions, but from how she comes across in sound bites and interviews on the TV.

The reality seems rather different. Her actions since becoming Prime Minister appear ill-judged and reckless. Take, for example, the pointless attempt to prevent parliament voting on Article 50. A strong and stable Prime Minister would (with a small amount of research) have realised that very few MPs within her party were prepared to be seen to ignore the referendum, and that therefore she would easily get her way. Instead she fought and lost a pointless battle in the courts. It had not been the first time she had wasted public money in this way.

Much more serious were the decisions she took immediately after the referendum. There was no need to immediately attempt to define what the referendum really meant, but she impulsively did so in terms of reducing immigration and not being bound by rulings from the European court. It effectively condemned the UK to leaving the Single Market and a Hard Brexit, something that absolutely was not implied by such a close vote. And she chose three Brexiteers to be in charge of the negotiations, which was not a ‘clever political move’ but a disaster in terms of formulating realistic plans for negotiations with the EU. In fact it is rather difficult to think of a single good decision she has taken since becoming PM.

Anyone who thinks her previous stint at the Home Office was more of a success should read the article by Jonathan Foreman that the Daily Telegraph pulled after pressure from her campaign. It ends “There’s a vast gulf between being effective in office, and being effective at promoting yourself; it’s not one that Theresa May has yet crossed.” That could be dismissed as exaggeration at a time of internal battles to become Tory leader, but it chimes with accounts by others. The Foreman article describes her as the most disliked member of two cabinets, unable to work easily with colleagues. Secretive, rigid, controlling, even vengeful are other adjectives used.

Two characteristics that I discussed in an earlier post were this lack of collegiality, and a tendency to adopt firm positions when flexibility was required. A clear example of that is the inclusion of students in the target total for net migration, which has done great damage to one of our stronger export industries, as well as causing untold distress to many people. It is difficult to think of any rational reason to obstinately refuse to remedy this mistake, beyond that it might appear to show ‘weakness’ in May herself.

The desire to project a false image of strength is unlikely to survive her encounter with the EU. As yet, she has done little to prepare the country for the many retreats she will have to make. Perhaps she thinks she can just lie about this, as she has been caught doing on at least two (here and here) occasions. It is a testament to these character flaws that so many find it difficult to know whether she will do a deal with the EU, or walk away in a faux gesture of defiant strength. Drawing unnecessary lines in the sand, personal aloofness and obstinacy designed to project an image of personal strength, are decidedly not the qualities you want in negotiating with the EU.

David Cameron may find that his reputation as the worst Prime Minister of modern times may not last very long.

Source: Theresa May

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7 thoughts on “The more we see of Theresa May, the less she seems like a leader

  1. Rusty

    Can’t find a fault in this article! Let’s see how she does tonight in the debate with “cherry picked” audience members! I can only see one winner……..JC!

  2. rupertrlmitchell

    Being strong is not heaping even more benefits on those who already have so much, including oneself Mrs. May, but sometimes foregoing unnecessary increases in the interest of allowing those who really do need them to benefit from good judgment rather than greed and arrogance.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Thank you, David Tennant (and Russell T Davies, who actually wrote that line).

  3. Barry Davies

    I fail to understand what people keep going on and on about how tough the eu are, they are so incompetent it was only 2 weeks ago they eventually got round to setting a date to set a date about having talks on what they will ask for, and we are all to well aware of how any eu negotiation takes decades to complete so the only problem is waiting for them to get their collective thumbs out of their backsides.

  4. NMac

    May has shown herself to lack judgement and to become confused and rattled very easily when under pressure. She is unable to debate or to face people. The fact is she is a very unpleasant, ambition-driven politician who cares only about her own career and nothing else at all.

    Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, has shown himself to be cool, calm and collected under pressure with good judgement and clearly concerned about people and the country. He is a an obvious leader and a statesman.

    Make June the end of May.

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