As much as we all love it, rarely has the print media appeared more obsolete than in the past couple of weeks; it doesn’t need falling sales to put it out of business, merely a remarkably fast-moving political apocalypse of the kind this country is currently experiencing. ‘Breaking News’, a normally annoying phrase we’re accustomed to being a permanent fixture at the bottom of the screen of rolling news channels, has now become relevant to every bloody headline as the fallout from Brexit continues to claim scalps on what feels like an hourly basis. All of this would make a cracking edition of ‘The Rock n Roll Years’ if we had any contemporary Rock n Roll to serve as the soundtrack to events.
With Angela Eagle confirming she will mount a leadership challenge to Jeremy Corbyn over the weekend, this morning’s official announcement of that kamikaze gamble has already been usurped by the far more unexpected announcement by Andrea Leadsom that she has withdrawn from the race to become the next Tory Party leader and, consequently, Prime Minister. Apparently, off-the-record she hinted that press intrusion into both her private life and past working life motivated her decision, yet perhaps this itself is reflective of her lack of experience in the public eye. It does, as they say, come with the territory; and she simply wasn’t up to the job if her silly ‘mother’ comment was anything to go by.
So, this means there is no longer a contest. The prospect of May and Leadsom dragging all of this out for another couple of months while the nation is doing a good impression of the archetypal headless chicken sounded ridiculous on paper, and we must at least be grateful to Leadsom for bowing out even before she and her rival have embarked upon a tour of the Shires. One can only assume Dave’s summer as a lame-duck PM will be considerably shorter than he anticipated in the wake of this development, and I guess he and Sam will have to begin packing their belongings long before September; mind you, going by his past absent-mindedness, Theresa May could well move in and find she’s got a child after all.
Much has been made by May’s supporters that her six years at the Home Office somehow represent success, though how many years did ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ run on TV, masquerading as a sitcom despite the notable absence of laugh-out loud moments? Longevity does not necessarily equate with achievement; and Theresa May’s achievements as Home Secretary are fairly threadbare. Whereas Andrea Leadsom appeals to many of that dying breed of old-school, golf-club, Nimby ‘Margot and Jerry’ Tories, Theresa May is regarded as dangerously liberal within such circles; but, as with Labour’s hardcore lefty Corbynistas, they are a small cult faction forming a minor part of a far broader network, and can never truly represent their party as a whole, never mind the nation. Like it or not, Theresa May is more in tune with the wider electorate than Andrea Leadsom would have been on subjects other than Brexit; and it is the wider electorate beyond partisan party activists that win General Elections.
As if to underline the ultimate powerlessness of party memberships, Leadsom’s withdrawal means that the new Prime Minister has been elected by a few hundred Conservative MPs as opposed to the similarly limited albeit slightly higher 150,000 Conservative Party Members. Theresa May indicated from the moment she announced she was standing to be Tory leader that she had no plans to call an Election in the autumn; but history rarely favours Prime Ministers who supersede retiring PMs without the electorate being involved. Neville Chamberlain, Alec Douglas-Home, Jim Callaghan and Gordon Brown all came to power this way and all failed to win a General Election; poor old Chamberlain actually never got the chance to do so. Yes, both Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan did gain a mandate from the public – the former called an Election only a month after succeeding Churchill in 1955, whereas the latter waited just over two-and-a-half years before going to the country; but both were fortunate to be competing against a deeply divided Labour Party. Theresa May take note.
It is ironic in a week that has seen several MPs on both sides of the House calling for the head of Tony Blair on a plate that the soon-to-be ex-Prime Minister David Cameron is facing no such demands. Watching him perform at his first post-Referendum PMQs, one would imagine he was a stand-up comic ala Michael McIntyre. There was nothing in his demeanour to suggest shame or regret at the absolute bloody mess he’s left the country in. If anyone should be held responsible for the current chaos, Dave is the man. All the fawning guff spewing forth from the mouths of Tory MPs concerning his six years at No.10 obscures the facts in a virtual whitewash of sanctimonious hyperbolic bullshit. Cameron has been an unmitigated disaster. From food banks and tax evasion to the EU Referendum and the impending, unavoidable split with Scotland, Dave hasn’t merely been managing decline; he has done his utmost to accelerate it. Theresa may not be the solution; but she surely couldn’t do any worse.
© The Editor