The May-Go-Round

Thursday, 14 March 2019

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man” it says in the Authorised Version of the Gospel of John. We’ve come on a long way since 1611 and we really should render that last word as ‘person’, as, when a time of crisis comes a woman is equally able to step up to the mark. Sometimes, cometh the hour, cometh the woman.

Not, however, this time. The United Kingdom stands at an hour of crisis and we are blessed to have at the helm and, to a ridiculous extent in control, the most unsuitable person we could possibly have. We have a person who is set fair to be looked back on as the worst Prime Minister in history - quite an achievement given that she follows the man who gambled the whole future of the country on a referendum to serve no other purpose than to keep his party united and in power, then fled like a whipped dog when people didn’t vote the way he expected.

I know people that have some degree of, if not admiration, at least sympathy for Theresa May. “No one could have done better,” some say, reflecting on the difficulties that Brexit have created. “She’s stuck to her guns,” some say, reflecting on her doggedness in trying to push through the deal she has negotiated with the European Union. “She inherited a mess,” some say. They’re damned right.

But, to a large extent, May is the author of our own misfortunes. To suggest that no one could have done better is to ignore the flaws in her personality that have led us to this point. Theresa May shows all the hallmarks of a control-freak. She shows an instinctive mistrust of sources of authority that she cannot control. Thus she excluded other political parties from input into the Brexit negotiations. She treated the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales with a degree of contempt that threatens the unity of the country way more than the Scottish National Party or Plaid Cymru. To a large extent she has sought to sideline Parliament itself; to deny it agency and power in deciding the future of the country.

She has, too, made some cataclysmic errors of judgement. It’s hard to put them in order of seriousness, but high on the list must be the decision to fire off Article 50 and the countdown to leaving the European Union before she, or anyone, had any idea of the strategy that would be followed to allow the UK to leave in an organised and dignified way. This is akin to tripping the trip-switch on a bomb that you’re attempting to dismantle before you’ve consulted the manual that tells you how to disarm it.

Another huge mistake was a wholly unnecessary general election that wiped out her Parliamentary majority. Again this is control-freakery. She was concerned that, even with that Parliamentary majority, she could not rely on the swivel-eyed nutcase wing of her party to support her Brexit vision. Looking at opinion polls that told her she couldn’t lose, she went to the country. After one of the most inept Prime Ministerial election campaigns I have ever seen she found herself in hock to the DUP for political survival. The phrase ‘Dance with the Devil’ springs to mind.

Then there are the people she has chosen to lead Brexit negotiations with the European Union. There’s David Davis; a man who - let’s be kind - is not renowned for his intellectual prowess. Nevertheless he spent eighteen months doing the square root of f**k-all. He spent so little time in negotiations with the EU that they never got round to putting out the Hob-Nobs. Then there was Dominic Raab, who appeared to do nothing other than scowling and demanding that the EU ‘get serious’, without ever suggesting what that might mean. 

So we are where we are. We have the deal that Theresa May cooked up with the European Union. No one believes in it. No one wants it. It has been presented to the House of Commons twice - in violation, I would argue - of our constitutional rules. Still, though, May is talking about making it work. This reveals the greatest flaw in her personality and it is enshrined in her phrase, “Brexit means Brexit”.

She is inflexible. She sees only one solution to a problem and she does not listen to voices that suggest others. She has her red lines and they are inviolable. She doesn’t know how to compromise. And so the UK Parliament has gone round and round in circles, edging ever closer to the cliff-edge of a no-deal Brexit. Our Prime Minister has gone back and forward to Strasbourg with vacuous requests for ‘alternative arrangements’, or whatever. we are all riding on a hellish May-Go-Round and we need to get off.