Should We Feel Sorry for Theresa May?

Gregory Holyoke 15 April 2019
Image Credit: Kevin Grieve

Oh god, another article about Brexit. Well yes and no, as much of this lack of sympathy precedes the referendum. Recently, I’ve had many conversations with friends of all political persuasions, none of whom rate Theresa May highly as a politician; but often in the same conversations I hear the phrase, “but, I mean, come on, you kind of have to feel sorry for her”. I admit, when you see myriad photos of her alone looking on forlornly next to groups of chummy MPs or EU leaders like a sepia tone Where’s Wally; or sitting disgruntled—again alone—in a car as grey as she, it is easy to start feeling sympathy.

Equally, I admit she’s not in an enviable position. Attacked from all sides, with Conservatives like Michael Heseltine and endless opposition MPs calling her the worst prime minister in living memory: she’s a city under siege. Things can’t be going well when the only thing you are best at is being the worst.

I don’t deny any of this, did she not bring it upon herself? Like many, if not most MPs, May has always been highly ambitious about her career, she has largely voted with her party and made her way through the ranks. However, her blind ambition has strayed from normality to downright hunger for power.

While officially supporting remain in the 2016 referendum, her actual involvement in the campaign outstripped even Corbyn’s in its feebleness. A couple of non-descript tweets and the odd soundbite do not truly constitute campaigning. This was calculated, May knew her cabinet position was guaranteed if Remain won; and were it to go the other way she could rise from the ashes of David Cameron’s government like an underwhelming phoenix. And rise she did. While Cameron selfishly created this mess to help further his party—which seems pretty ironic now—May retreated into the shadows, waiting to further her own career.

Since becoming prime minister, this deep-rooted yearning for power has only continued. She has sacrificed everything to remain in her position, if only she’d put such an effort to remain in the EU. She has caved in and been cowed by the far-right of her party and given up all real power in the hope of maintaining some illusion of power by being a lame-duck prime minister. This is also a position she largely put herself in by contemptuously calling an election she promised not to call and during which she couldn’t even turn up to, to debate her policies.

May also stood by when nastier elements of the press incited violence against the very institutions that they had advocated ‘returning sovereignty’ to, because the judges ruled in favour of giving parliament a say. May stayed silent when The Mail called them “saboteurs” and called on her to “crush” them.  She is not deft, but deaf to reality and we are all paying the price for her arrogance. They fact that even her own party is turning on her is neither surprising nor regrettable.

We shouldn’t forget that May, as Home Secretary, was the architect of the infamous Hostile Environment policy. 83 reported cases of wrongful deportations of people who had known no country apart from this one, who were in all-but-legality British, fall on her shoulders. On top of this countless people were denied access to healthcare, including treatment for life-threatening illnesses, owing to a lethal combination of incompetency and contempt on the part of our current Prime Minister. It was Amber Rudd (who is by no means without blame) who fell on May’s sword for this. And, under May’s leadership of the home office, vans were driven through areas with high-immigrant populations donning posters with the slogan “Go home or face arrest,” for potential illegal immigrants. The stress and anguish that she caused so many people seems totally unacceptable.

This being said, personal abuse that the Prime Minister has faced—much of it incredibly sexist and misogynistic—is reprehensible. It highlights how far we still have to go in making politics a level playing-field.

The political criticism she faces, however, is justified. She has made her bed, soiled it, and tried to force us all in to it. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister though, no matter how many fields of wheat she tries to run away through, she lies alone in her proverbial bed; and I for one won’t be losing any tears over it.