No one who has ever quit a dead-end job could fail to recognise the look of relieved bliss on Theresa May’s face last Saturday as she busted out her favourite Pinocchio-like moves to ABBA at Henley Festival.
It was the dance of a woman who has weathered every political storm, been called every name under the sun, and chosen to stop caring how she looks. She might as well. Whatever your take on the politics of our outgoing prime minister, it’s safe to say that hers was not a charismatic tenure.
Her failure to make progress with Brexit – a thing precisely zero other UK prime ministers had hitherto attempted – in combination with often sexist comparisons with Margaret Thatcher and a total lack of personal warmth, regularly made for an unsympathetic reception from the general public. The robot premier of a zombie government, it was, in many ways, incredible that Theresa May lasted as long as she did.
But in the past few weeks, there has been a shift. As she announced her resignation outside Downing Street on 25 May, she didn’t just mark the end of the most onerous job she will ever have. As declared with brimming eyes that she had done her best, she also signalled the birth of a new Theresa: Notice Period Theresa.
May was never under whatever witch’s curse – aka, being a man – that saw her likely successor Boris Johnson’s buffoonish early performances paint him as a lovable rogue and distract from his professional incompetence, and extraordinarily sinister behaviour behind the scenes.
May’s previous attempts at humour – like dancing on to the stage to ABBA at the 2018 Tory conference, and accepting her 2016 Spectator politician of the year award from George Osborne dressed in a high-vis jacket, were never quite sufficient to distract from the Brexit deadlock, or her egregiously xenophobic policies and rhetoric.
But now, soon to have the weight of government off her shoulders, it looks as though Theresa May might finally be having that relatable moment she so craved. The past few weeks have looked like a highlights – or rather, medium-to-low-lights – reel of the few human moments of her time in Number 10.
Why not have a laugh about her infamous fields of wheat confession during her last major speech, or post gifs of herself swaying to ‘Dancing Queen’? She’s been the vessel for the most difficult job a UK politician has faced in decades, and though her performance has been soundly criticised, May can now rest easy in the knowledge that neither of the new candidates for the role is likely to do better.
While Johnson and Hunt dream up doomed plans to axe the Irish border backstop, apparently deaf to the warnings from Brussels that the UK cannot afford to waste a moment of the Brexit delay, Theresa May can flirt with the victorious England cricket team.
While they refuse to definitively call out President Trump’s racist tweets, she can – with extraordinarily little introspection – call them “unacceptable.” Like Bridget Jones sweeping away her relationship with creep boss Daniel Cleaver with a parting insult, May’s hand-holding days are behind her.
So what’s next for Theresa May? It seems unlikely that she’ll “do an Ed Miliband” and venture into the world of soft political commentary and occasional radio hosting when she is no longer party leader.
Sadly less so that she’ll emulate Ed Balls, and see out her professional epilogue on Strictly Come Dancing. Her allies apparently anticipate that she will take up some form of charity work. But for now, it’s no wonder that Theresa May is dancing. She’s the only person in the country for whom life is about to get more relaxing.
“A week is a long time in politics” was a famous saying of Labour prime minister Harold Wilson. It means a month is an eternity. A lot has changed since the UK was set on a course leading, unexpectedly, to the European elections this Thursday in the UK to vote in British MEPs. That set of events was triggered
During the darkest days of the Brexit crisis, Theresa May allies kept their spirits up by describing her “Bee Gees strategy” – a reference to the group’s hit “Stayin’ Alive”. This goal is what lies behind Tuesday night’s announcement that MPs will hold a fourth vote on May’s Brexit deal in early June,
When Boris Johnson was asked about the Conservative leadership, he said: “Of course I’m going to go for it.” What he meant, according to one of his leadership campaign team, was that there is no vacancy at the moment, but that he would be a candidate when there was.
Parliament’s inability to agree a withdrawal deal meant the UK did not leave the EU on 29 March. Theresa May’s government confirmed a new target date of 31 October with Brussels. This gives fresh hope to those wanting Brexit softened, if not cancelled, as progress remains stalled.
Theresa May never seemed to appreciate the importance of tempo in politics. She was not good at surprising, disrupting and confusing her opponents. Boris Johnson has learned from her mistakes.
What happens to a democracy when people stop talking to one another about what matters to them and the country? When people are afraid to speak their minds because they fear the personal blowback likely to come their way? Or worse,
The other day I saw a report of an airstrike hitting a medical facility in Idlib, killing a paramedic and an ambulance driver. Not a legitimate military target, but a medical facility. Then, shortly after, an airstrike hit again.