Theresa May is finally resigning from her roles as Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader.
How May managed to survive for nearly an entire decade to inflict her ill-fated policies and poor leadership on the UK (as Home Secretary & PM), is an indictment of UK politics during this period.
May is by far the most frustrating head of any UK government in my lifetime. She was the architect or enabler of many of the scandals and political disasters that damaged people’s lives across the country for this decade. Her recent handling of BREXIT was a textbook in how not to lead and negotiate.
There are many to blame for May lasting this long in government. They include:
- David Cameron – Then PM Cameron should have fired May for countless insubordination and for introducing some of the most cruel legislation and policies ever to come out of the Home Office. That was poor leadership on Cameron’s part.
- The media – May as Home Secretary (2010-2016) blundered her way through multiple issues on crime, immigration, policing and national security. Things didn’t get better for her as PM. But the media kept playing down May’s pitfalls and gave her a free pass.
- Labour Party – Not only has Theresa May being one of the worst prime ministers in living memory, she has led the most uninspired bunch of cabinet ministers ever assembled in Whitehall. Yet the Labour Party chose May’s period as PM to turn on itself in a most acrimonious and public fashion. Despite May’s wretched premiership, Labour’s opinion polling numbers has been pathetic and they rarely had a double digit lead over the Tories. Labour’s poor showing at the recent local government and EU elections must be a wake-up call for its leadership and MPs.
But you have to give it to May. She bamboozled and simply ignored all her stakeholders to last this long in front-line government. How May remained 6 years as Home Secretary I will never comprehend, given her 5 predecessors (under Labour) served a total of 9 years. Each had their own respective scandals but nothing like May’s blunders.
However, I will give credit to then Home Secretary May for scrapping the National ID card programme and also for blocking the extradition to the US of Gary McKinnon who was facing computer hacking charges.
The Premierships of Theresa May (2016-2019) & Gordon Brown (2007-2010) – All too familiar?
Theresa May’s time in government is so similar to Gordon Brown’s (Labour Party) of the previous decade.
As cabinet ministers both forced their colleagues into submission to get their way over policy. (Brown was Chancellor for 10 years before he became PM in 2007). Brown and May became PM following the resignation of the incumbent and faced no genuine leadership contest.
Both could not evolve from their normal aggressive and obstinate nature into confident and inspiring leaders when they became PM. They were very weak communicators and poor delegators. Brown and May lacked the empathy to connect convincingly with colleagues and the wider public.
Tory Leadership Contenders
It is more than likely that the next Tory leader was a member of Theresa May’s cabinet. It is hard to pinpoint any significant legislation or success that most of the likely contenders have championed whilst in office.
But the race to succeed May is moving quickly with Boris Johnson (former Mayor of London) the clear favourite to win. But we know from previous Tory Party leadership races that the so-called favourite does not always achieve the big prize. What did Boris achieve as Foreign Secretary?
So with Boris in that unenviable position of front runner we have to look elsewhere for May’s short term successor.
Michael Gove (Environment Secretary) must feel that his moment has come once again. Sajid Javid (Home Secretary) has thrown his hat in the ring but I cannot see him winning.
Jeremy Hunt (Foreign Secretary) is also running, so too Dominic Raab (former BREXIT Secretary) and Esther McVey (former DWP Secretary). I hear Graham Brady, of the powerful 1922 committee of Tory back benchers, is likely to declare as well.
Matt Hancock (Health Secretary) and Andrea Leadsom (former House of Commons leader) and Kit Malthouse have also declared their intentions to run.
The leading pro-EU candidate would have been Amber Rudd (DWP Secretary) but for now she has ruled herself out. Rudd is still tarnished over her handling of the Windrush scandal which even peeved some of her ardent right wing colleagues. What has Boris promised her in return for not running?
In Rudd’s absence Rory Stewart (International Development Secretary) looks to be the leading pro-EU candidate. Or is he?
Despite the ever increasing list of contenders it is hard to pick a clear-cut winner until each candidate reveals their agenda and the outcome of any upcoming televised debates. Which is why although Boris is the clear favourite now, his current strong showing can easily diminish the minute he opens his mouth and guarantees the Tory members and rivals a gaffe or two.
None of the Above?
My number one choice as the best person to effectively lead the Tory Party out of this chaos would be Penny Mordaunt (Defence Secretary). Mordaunt is a BREXITER but without the incendiary, drama or bluster of many of the current contenders. But given the number of candidates declared Mordaunt may opt not to run this time. But she has a solid record at the international and local level.
My wildcard choice would be Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson. Davidson is not afraid of telling on her southern based colleagues to toughen up and is no fan of Boris. But having just returned from maternity leave, Davidson may be inclined to remain north of the border.
Davidson is not a MP but that is a minor detail if she was willing to run. Yes, the Scottish Tories had a nightmare (coming 4th) in the recent European elections but the party took a bashing nationwide due to May’s poor leadership.
A Mordaunt/Davidson leadership could unite the warring factions of the Tory party and appeal to younger voters. Similar to the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown pact in the Labour Party during the 1990s.
No Time for Tears
Some leading Tories have said that the next leader/PM has to be a BREXITER. Not true.
The Tories need a leader who will lead. Someone who empowers the cabinet, inspires the public and displays honest and flexibility to all stakeholders. The next leader should be a good communicator, listens and has a clear vision of how to carry the country forward at this critical time.
Given the Tories have a minority government the new leader has to display excellent interpersonal skills to work effectively with the other parties in parliament. Even Labour.
The Tories need a leader who can win at least 335 seats at the next general election and not having to rely on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to govern effectively. A very tall order.
The UK needs the next Tory leader/PM to immediately tackle violent crime, ease the poverty rate, resolve BREXIT and stand up to John Bolton.
Will the Trend of Dreadful Prime Ministers Continue?
When Gordon Brown lost the 2010 general election he was described by some observers (even some former colleagues) as Britain’s worst prime minister in living memory. May has certainly eclipsed Brown.
The question now is will May’s immediate successor be an improvement on her, Brown and David Cameron? Given that in 2016 Brown and Cameron were regarded – by a survey of 82 academics – as 2 of the worst prime ministers since the 2nd World War.