Theresa May open thread

So congratulations are in order to Theresa May on becoming Prime Minister.

May has usually been described as dull, diligent and effective, but I expect now that she has the top job a little more of her personality will be stamped on the government. She is famous for calling out the Conservatives for allowing themselves to be seen as the ‘nasty party’ and was considered a moderniser, but has not always risen above the nasty herself – the “Go home” billboards for example.

David Laws, in his book Coalition, opens a chapter on May thus:

To Nick Clegg, she was the ‘Ice Queen’. Eric Pickles referred to her disparagingly as ‘Tricksy Belle of Marsham Street’. Her relations with Michael Gove were, shall we say, distant. And the Liberal Democrat Justice Minister, Lord McNally, told me that she and Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, fought like ‘two scorpions in a bottle’.

She was admired by Lynne Featherstone, she frustrated Jeremy Browne and she drove Norman Baker mad. On this last, it should be said that the feeling was mutual – when a Cabinet reshuffle placed Norman Baker in the Home Office in October 2013, the next day’s cabinet meeting started a most unusual five minutes late, because the Home Secretary was in the Prime Minister’s office complaining about her new minister. ‘How could you agree to Nick putting this man into my department? Norman Baker, for goodness sake!’

Laws goes on to describe May’s relations with other Conservatives, policy questions such as the snooper’s charter (May wanted to give the security services everything they asked for), and the style of management (a Conservative fiefdom, not a coalition-friendly space.)

Theresa May clearly stood apart from the ‘inner circle’ of the Conservative team. She was not ‘one of the boys’, and wasn’t treated as such. Indeed there was a distinct frostiness between the Home Secretary on the one hand and David Cameron, George Osborne and Michael Gove and their inner circle on the other, which I never once saw melt away. Some of the most robust clashes at the Cabinet were not between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, but between Theresa May and George Osborne over her department’s rigid attitude to economic immigration …

My money was (figuratively) on Theresa May since 24th June, though I had a wobble when Leadsom made it to the final ballot, fearing that Conservative members might be as bloodyminded as Labour members. The Home Office is a graveyard of political careers and for someone to survive it for six years, they must be playing the game pretty well, however “plain speaking” their public image is.

So, what should we expect from Theresa May as Prime Minister?

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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  • Careful, Joe, you’ll upset our Editor with the Nick Clegg quote. One expects the unsubtle Pickles to be unconsciously guilty of “mansplaining” but surely not Clegg N.P.W. ?

    My own view of Mrs May is that much as I may disagree with her, she will be a formidable operator. I expect no mercy for Gove, but David Davis may make a miraculous re-appearance.

  • If only we had ensured that our own wonderful Kathy Newbound had beaten her in the 2005 General Election.

  • She has done a lot of damage to universities with her bloody-minded insistence on treating overseas students as immigrants and doing her best to reduce numbers. This has caused particular offence in India and there has been a big drop in Indian students coming to the US as a result. She also presides over a steady stream of heartless immigration decisions that lead to family separations. Every now and then she has surprised us with for example her tackling of the corruption and racism in the police and with the refusal to send the man with Aspergers to the US for trial – to the annoyance of Alan Johnson who had wanted to do so.

  • Bernard Aris 12th Jul '16 - 12:50pm

    I look on it from a D66 perspective; what we did with the Dutch coalition (VVD/PvdA) government from 2012 onwards:
    *) getting influence on policy by aiding a government with a small majority (and in this case a strong reactionary, Leadsome/John Redwood-like “nasty” subcurrent) to switch from being nasty, inward-looking to constructive, modernizing. We at D66 demanded and got massive increases on Education, an stopped intelligence services being cut (they seriously had it in the government program!).

    The policies May put forward in het only “hustings” speech monday in Birmingham were pure Miliband Socialdemocracy, and we can be sure Corbyn will not support that, and Angela Eagle (having on monday declared not to be a Milibandite) will not dare to support them, at least not openly.

    So it falls to the inheritor of the SDP (us, LibDems) to pick up that line which has a capacity of indeed re-engaging the people who up to now felt abandoned.

    Sometimes you have to overlook the personality of a politicians if aspects of his/her policy appeal to you, are necessary for the country. Social Liberals don’t want to govern because of the power, but because we can do good that way…
    And we’re much more solidly built right now than either the (ageing) Tory grassroots, with frustrated Exiteers,, or the (split: Chavistas against moderate socialists) Labourites. The Tory nasties will holler against us, but people see us contributing to good causes.
    Mind you, I’m not saying: propose a coalition or LibDem-May Pact, but close deals on social-liberal aims in the broken British society.

    If we support her on social issues (workers & consumers influence on companies, openness and acountability over top salaries), we could get her to tone down things like the “Snoopers Charter”. If we don’t support her on anything, she will let that “nasty” side of her run wild because nothing discourages it…

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th Jul '16 - 1:03pm

    Bernard – I think you’re looking at this from the point of view of a country where there isn’t FPTP. May has no need to do a deal right now with anyone who isn’t a Conservative.

    I would be interested to know if people feel she is in fact – if she follows through on her ‘industrial policy’ line – actually taking the Tories closer to the perspective of European Christian Democracy than they have been for some time?

  • Mrs May has been fairly consistent on two points:
    1) There will be no general elections sooner than 2020.
    2) She will take the UK out of the EU.

    Yet commentators continually seem to assume that she is lying about both of these points. Why?

  • Bernard Aris 12th Jul '16 - 1:38pm

    Her Birmingham speech had much of the old “Mitbestimmung” (look it up in the German Wikipedia; it’s Co-Determination in the English one) and workers-employers-meeting around conference tables which has always been the prefered way of handling Industrial relations of Christian Democrats.
    But such a thing got nowhere when Wilson tried Neddy and Heath & Callaghan tried parlaying at Downing Street 10 (both: top-down); it has to be introduced at company level first and evolve upwards.

    And May and Merkel both being pastors daughters could make them strike a cord…

    Instead of rejoining the PPP grouping in the European Parliament (spooking British Exiteers), May could rejoin the Christian Democrat International instead, a roundabout way of still reaching Merkel and Juncker…

    *) Italian Christian democracty disappeared in the 1990’s;
    *) the Spanish one is corrupt and faltering; clinging on to power;
    *) the Austrian one is nowhere, has dissappeared;
    *) the Dutch is at 20 to 25% of its former strength;
    so it’s not the powerful continental movement it once was…

  • Bill le Breton 12th Jul '16 - 1:52pm

    As a rule of thumb it is best to count on the opposite being the case to whatever a new UK Prime Minister will actually do/stand for. It is part of the reunification process after an internal election or a divisive General Election.

    Upon winning we hear about all kinds of policies that they have ‘always’ supported deep down but which they have been unable to express until now and to which we have therefore inexplicably missed appreciating their commitment.

  • Bernard Aris 12th Jul '16 - 4:23pm

    @ David-1
    In my last posting on this thread, I clearly imply I fully accept that May will take the UK (and het Tories) out of the EU.

    But seeing the small majority Cameron won, and the probability that pro-Brexit-Tories will be disappointed in any remaining contact with the Common Market (and thus remaining parts of EU rulles applying to what Britain does), and the contrast in modern and traditional moral views between for example May and Leadsom (see gay marriage), one cannot exclude the possibility that Tory Brexiteers will defect, possibly merging with what’s left of UKIP to form a splinter party; and by-election Tory losses in the years up to 2020. Prime minister May can lose her majority, and/or lose a confidence vote.
    So remain prepared for a new general election; and God only knows what the policy consensus then is about relations with the EU. May is certainly not lying about “no elections until 2020”; just whistling in te wind…

  • She will be terrible, but was “least bad” of the pool the Tories had to pick from.

    David Raw

    “no mercy for Gove”

    Not sure on that one, she will want to tie the Breakers into negotiations so they can’t throw their toys out of the pram later (they still will). She could try and get them to embarrass themselves before sorting it out herself.

    John Kelly

    She was terrible to foreign students. But so we’re Labour, I think it was 2003 that they started messing about with Visas to “neutralise immigration” as a political issue, how did that work out? The only solution to terrible ideas at the Home Office is a liberal Home Sec, so no chance any time soon.

  • I cant get excited about May. Like a Kipper she is obsessed by the small proportion of immigrants who are criminals. She was totally incompetent when dealing with immigration controls at airports, laying off staff as the queues grew and grew in the run up to the Olympics. A lot of damage can be done in 4 years, especially with a rudderless Labour party and a diminuitive Lib Dem contingent. Brexit will continue to be a slow motion car crash. She offers no vision.

  • Stevan Rose 12th Jul '16 - 9:10pm

    Four good things about Theresa May

    1. She’s not Leadsom.
    2. She’s distant towards Gove
    3. She’s clearly no fan of Grayling.
    4. She’s not Leadsom.

  • Do I want her as a new PM? Of course not, some of her views and policies she has advanced have been appalling and certainly in relation to control of student numbers or restricting visas to business people her policies have actually harmed many universities and British businesses.

    She also failed to step up to the plate during the EU referendum and properly campaign. In a strange way she has a lot in common with Jeremy Corbyn on this issue.

    I could add many other criticisms to her…

    But today at least, we should remember her overall record. If we fail to recognise some of the good things she has done we devalue our real attacks we must make on her future right wing administration we will now sadly face as a country.

    If you claim everything your opponent has done is wrong you ultimately just look like a fool would be my advice.

    Teresa May should I think at least have some credit for the following:

    – she rightly overturned the previous Labour policy of agreeing to the deportation of the computer hacker Kevin McKinnon to the US.

    – she has stood up to the Police Federation, even at their conference, and said police corruption is never acceptable.

    – she has taken the Hillsborough families seriously and helped to ensure that some form of justice is finally done for these families

    – she ensured that the police across the whole of England and Wales stopped their totally excessive (and largely counter productive) use of stop and search, which was for long totally unrelated to actual intelligence the police had. Facing being stopped and searched in the street, for no intelligence led reason (other than you happen to be black) is simply wrong.

    – she saw a new Act to tackle modern day slavery passed, and whatever her personal views she certainly never blocked progress on same sex marriage being passed as well.

    – she rightly stopped the adoption of water cannon in Britain – standing up to Boris Johnson on this issue.

    She has a very mixed record. Some of her policies and decisions she has backed are horrific. She is without question a right Tory at heart, with no real plans to really tackle issues such as the lack of truly affordable housing in this country.

    But let’s look at her record in the round. If we fail do so today I think we are making a mistake.

  • @ Stephen Rose “She’s clearly no fan of Grayling.”

    Come off it. He’s her campaign manager.

  • James Hicklin 13th Jul '16 - 12:00am

    The idea that Lib Dem activists should set out their expectations for Teresa May is, frankly, laughable in its presumptuousness. May has become PM because, politically, she has positioned herself carefully both during and prior to the referendum. She has worked her way to the top and slogged away at the Home Office, playing the long game. So she is a seasoned and hardened practitioner of realpolitik. This has brought her the ultimate prize. Clearly this doesn’t appeal to the idealists and purists in the LibDems but it does reflect the realities of the politics of power: when the opportunity presents itself, be ready to strike.
    So, as PM, May will do whatever is necessary to stay in office, to keep control of her party and to survive events as they unfold. As Macmillan (apocryphally) said, “Events, dear boy”. She will doubtless struggle to get the best deal she can from Brexit. That will undoubtedly mean compromise and balancing gains and losses –just as when we negotiated to join under Heath.
    Rather than try to anticipate what to expect from Teresa May LibDems would be better advised to devoting their energies to their own survival in the political marketplace. The Party has had disastrous results in European, Westminster and Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly elections. Party activists also seem to have difficulty accepting that they were on the losing side in the EU Referendum. Tim Farron’s reaction to recent events seems particularly bizarre for a party leader.
    The Conservatives are not popular but under FPTP they only have to win more seats than the other parties and they can do that because the others are even less popular. Learn from that and change, compromise and adapt if you are serious about gaining political power. If you aren’t, what’s the point?

  • Shouldn’t we worry just a bit about a Prime Minister who opposes the Bill of Human Rights?

  • BrianD

    “Shouldn’t we worry just a bit about a Prime Minister who opposes the Bill of Human Rights?”

    I would think we aren’t going to see any change on that front if you consider how embarrassing the attempt Grayling made was.

  • Simon Banks 13th Jul '16 - 2:08pm

    No job for Gove, but a job for the diminished Boris, no longer a threat. That’s my bet. Will Osborne last long at No 11 and who might replace him? Safe pair of hands Phil Hammond?

    She lacks charisma and may lack inventiveness, but she is the right sort of personality to come across as in control. For the English floating voter (things are a bit different in the rest of the UK) that’s what matters most when it comes to an election. Given that we won’t leap from fifth place in the popular vote to first in one go, May would need to be opposed by a Labour leader who looked at least as decisive and in control. That can’t, I think, be Corbyn or Eagle. It might have been Yvette Cooper.

  • Stevan Rose 13th Jul '16 - 4:28pm

    “Come off it. He’s her campaign manager.”

    And Boris Johnson chose Gove; that turned out well. Marriage of convenience I suspect. He wants the Cabinet Minister salary, she wants Brexit credibility. It’ll be interesting to see what job he gets.

  • David Pocock 13th Jul '16 - 7:41pm

    I half wonder if Boris or Gove will end up with the Minister for brexit role; purely so they have to drink from the poisoned cup they brewed and deflect some of the aftermath from her. Pragmatic and cynical yes but these are the times we live in.

  • paul barker 13th Jul '16 - 7:59pm

    Bojo the clown representing us all on the World stage ! WTF ? This is treating our Allies with contempt. Johnson is not & never was a serious figure.

  • Well Mrs May is certainly putting her own stamp on this government and sending out a clear message that leave means leave. Johnson, Davies and Fox in top jobs means there is no going back. For the leavers – and most people are – a very promising start.

  • Stevan Rose 13th Jul '16 - 9:59pm

    I would have put Davis in the Home Office job. Hammond and Rudd good choices. Osbourne obviously offered a major demotion but then he was never up to a big job anyway. Fallon in Defence fine. Boris as Foreign Sec??? I can’t think of a more bonkers choice on the face of it but it will make diplomacy a lot more amusing. I’d have left Hammond at the FCO and put Rudd into No. 11. Adam Werrity, sorry Dr Fox, in an international trade role. Has May forgotten why he was sacked?

    My theory, for what it’s worth, is that the trio of Boris, Davis and Werrity, sorry Fox, will wind up other countries so much they will be unable to get anything approaching a reasonable trade deal and have to concede or walk. They’re neutralised by cabinet membership and their inevitable failure will strengthen May. If that’s not the intent then the alternative is that our new PM has a streak of the barking mad about her.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '16 - 5:51pm

    David-1 12th Jul ’16 – 1:17pm “Events Dear Boy, Events.”

  • Richard Underhill 28th Aug '16 - 6:32pm

    The Daily Telegraph had a cartoon depicting the PM returning from holiday to face a mountainous In-Tray. She was actually at Lords, apparently enjoying herself and applauding. England lead two nil with three to play.
    She also had an opportunity to meet Geoffrey Boycott. Michael Vaughan commented that Geoffrey does not have a knighthood, yet.
    “Boycott was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1980 Queen’s Birthday Honours “for services to Cricket.” ” in 1982 he was instrumental in organising, in defiance of a United Nations and a TCCB ban, a so-called “rebel” tour of apartheid South Africa by 13 current and former England Test cricketers, who were almost all nearing the end of their careers. All the players were banned from international cricket for three years as a result.”

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