She has clambered up the greasy pole in a cunning style of her own. Don't imagine she'll be easy to dislodge from the topby Anne Perkins / February 10, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Theresa May is the stealth prime minister. A year ago, few tipped her for the top. She was too old, too dry, too uncharismatic and far too reluctant to schmooze. Her victory was so unpredicted and unpredictable, her life story should be incorporated into the national curriculum as an example of the value of luck, self-belief and hard work. Throw in a political crisis, the absurd over-reach of rivals and a spooky calm under pressure, and you are close to working out how May won the prize.
It is six months since this long-serving, middle-of-the-road, cricket-loving Conservative—once characterised by William Hague as a “middle-order batsman”—launched her leadership campaign one morning and, before it was time to think about lunch, had become prime minister-in-waiting. Six months that have been increasingly punctuated by a low chorus suggesting, in the phrase so often applied to women, that she’s not quite up to it. Yet, even after that excruciating hand-holding snap with the wild and distrusted new American president, no one seriously thinks she is at risk.
That is not only because—in truth—Donald Trump grabbed her hand, and she extracted herself as fast as she decently could. Nor is it because she enjoys a giddying lead in the polls over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. Nor is it even because there is no obvious alternative PM surreptitiously marshalling support on the backbenches. It is, most fundamentally, because the course through the shoals and reefs of Brexit is still unknown. It is easy enough to criticise her. But the only coherent alternative to her newly revealed strategy of putting immigration controls ahead of prosperity and walking out of the single market (and probably the customs union, too) is the Liberal Democrat approach of denying the referendum conclusively settled the matter.