On the night of June 9, 2017, British Prime Minister Theresa May was returned as the right honourable member of parliament for Maidenhead in the west of London’s commuter belt, and she shared the podium with the candidates she defeated.
There was a Labour and a Liberal-Democrat candidate, but also a series of colourful cartoon characters lined up against her: Lord Buckethead, who won 249 votes; Elmo, who scored three; and Howling ‘Laud’ Hope of the Monster Raving Loony Party, who tallied 119 ballots.
If only she could face off against such lunatics now. As it is, she must convince the nutters of the far-right of her party who believe in a lemming-like death wish to jump off a cliff to obtain a hard Brexit, making the United Kingdom free of Brussels’ tyranny, keep her moderate wing inside, and convince her more liberal-leaning Europhile colleagues that the Brexit deal she has negotiated with Brussels is the best thing since the invention of sliced bread.
And while she’s at it, she must try and get some Labour MPs to break ranks and go along with her plan. Anything and everything necessary to ensure come December 11, she will have enough votes to ensure that long-awaited Brexit deal is approved.
The maths are not in her favour.
Assuming that there are no abstentions, she needs 320 votes. Some 90 Conservatives have already said they oppose their party leader’s plan, add in 10 Democratic Unionists from Northern Ireland who say ‘No’ to everything; 12 Liberal-Democrats; 257 Labour MPs — and 35 Scottish Nationalists — and you begin to see why she is facing, not so much as an uphill task but more of a cliff face.
But this vicar’s daughter who was born on October 1, 1956, is still rallying her ministers: Once more on to the breach!
As it stands already, there are some 30 MPs who have put their names to letters sent to the 1922 Committee of the Conservative party, saying they want her to step aside after 30 months in office. Once the committee has 48 letters — 15 per cent of the 315 MPs in her party — a leadership review is automatic.
Given all of the angst surrounding her single-minded determination to reach a Brexit deal with Brussels, should that deal fail to win parliamentary approval, the mailbox of the 1922 Committee will be rightly stuffed.
Or then again, she might simply resign as prime minister, triggering an unprecedented crisis in Her Majesty’s Government and at Westminster itself. Wouldn’t that be a truly daring deed for a woman who confessed during that disastrous general election campaign that the most outrageous thing she ever did as a child was to run through a field of wheat. Oh, gosh, golly, how thrilling!
May only took over the keys to 10 Downing Street almost by default. On the morning after the Brexit referendum, then prime minister David Cameron stepped aside; Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, two dotty ministers who led — and lied — the Leave campaign to victory, ran for the hills, knowing full-well the chaos they had unleashed on the nation; and the way was open for the quiet and effective Home Secretary of six years to become the United Kingdom’s second female PM.
But Margaret Thatcher Theresa May is not. She largely avoids the collegiate side of parliamentary politics, is more like a wall flower at a dance — shy, bashful, a little socially awkward at making small talk — and never developed a large following based on her personality. Well, I’m mean, let’s be fair — how can running through a wheat field stack up against some of the high jinks that Cameron supposedly did in his university days.
Indeed, if there’s one word that can be used to describe the personality of the woman who graduated from Oxford with a second class honour’s degree in Geography in 1977, that word might be ‘boring’.
Sure, Theresa Mary Brasier did enough to charm Phillip May into walking her down the aisle in 1980, and she never developed the knack of socialising or being playful simply for the charm of it all. But since becoming prime minister — and even after calling that snap general election and losing the Conservative’s majority — she has stuck to the task of reaching a Brexit deal to end the UK’s 45-year marriage with the European Union (EU).
As this entire Brexit mess has unfolded, she has a doggedness that wins through not by being effective, but simply having stamina and staying power. You get the impression that she would delight in watching wet paint dry, finding charm in 50 shades of grey as everyone else nodded off to sleep after putting the lids back on the paint pots and cleaning the brushes.
She is a woman of slogans more than substance; “No deal is better than a bad deal”; “Strong and stable government”; “Brexit means Brexit”.
Brexit means Brexit? What does that mean?
It seems after 18 months of negotiations the resignations of six senior Cabinet ministers — including two who were supposed to be negotiating the thing in the first instance — a party rebellion and the loss of the 10 DUP MPs who were propping up her government, May is the only one who fully understands what Brexit actually means.
And that’s why she will fail to get the deal approved by parliament. They’re a different set of characters, far more politically streetwise than she, Lord Buckhead, Elmo and Howling ‘Laud’ Hope put together.
Yep, the Raving Loony Party has claimed power.