Friday, June 9, 2017

How Theresa May Blew It

Anyone can be right after the fact. Everyone today knows why Theresa May blew it, and blew it badly in the British parliamentary elections that she herself had called. Post mortems are fun, but pre mortems are much more engaging.  

Joseph Sternberg wrote in the Wall Street Journal three days ago that May had wanted to shed the supposed harshness of Margaret Thatcher, to be a kinder and gentler leader. She offered to expand the social safety net and to open her arms to working class Brits. In some ways she resembles the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also a center-right politician who felt a need to open her arms to marauding bands of criminal refugees.

Writing in the Daily Beast yesterday Nico Hines saw clearly where May’s campaign had gone off the rails. As we await news about whether she is capable of retiring her leadership post, we examine Hines' analysis.

For those of us who have not been following the British election campaign, Hines lays it out with exemplary clarity:

There was a point about halfway through this election campaign when Theresa May became a laughing-stock. 

The nation edged past its boredom threshold and no longer found the prime minister’s platitudes to be mind-numbing—they were starting to become quite funny. She was becoming a parody of herself.

For months after moving into No. 10 last year she toured the country, offering virtually no insight into how she would deal with the aftermath of Britain’s European Union referendum. She had succeeded David Cameron because she was seen as a trustworthy figure who could make serious decisions in troubled times. Yet again and again, her only public explanation of the messy European divorce on the horizon was to keep repeating the words “Brexit means Brexit.”

Making yourself into a laughing stock is clearly not the way to go. It was nice that she asserted that Brexit meant Brexit, but she had supported the Remain position in the referendum. It's like having the architect of Romneycare try to run a presidential campaign against Obamacare.

Anyway, May wanted to project strength and stability. The problem is, to do so you need to be more than talk.

Hines explains:

“Strong and stable” was emblazoned onto the campaign buses, it was affixed to the front of her podium, and it was held aloft on placards at her events. She, and her Conservative colleagues, repeated the phrase in almost every interview, op-ed, and speech.

Reinforcing your core message is important to any political campaign, but this was getting ridiculous. It may have been Channel 4 News correspondent Michael Crick who caused the first crack in the fa├žade. The PM stumbled into a policy announcement on social care funding that proved to be terribly unpopular. Instead of riding out the backlash, she opted for a sharp U-turn while trying to pretend she had done no such thing.

Directly to her face at a press conference, Crick compared May unfavorably to Margaret Thatcher, who once famously declared, “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.”

He suggested that she had done precisely the opposite. “Doesn’t this show that you are really weak and wobbly, not strong and stable?” he asked.

With that, May had been exposed and the party was over.


JPL17 said...

"It's like having the architect of Romneycare try to run a presidential campaign against Obamacare."

Ouch! When truth hurts.

Sam L. said...

She's no Iron Lady. Or maybe she's just really, really rusted.

Ares Olympus said...

I had forgotten she was never elected, but had taken PM when Cameron resigned after the Brexit vote passed.

Also interesting the DUP party, with 10 seats, and less than 1% of the vote will side with the Conservatives to help them gain the majority.

When a 1% party is the deciding factor in helping a big party reach majority control, their issues will suddenly gain a big boost. I can't tell clearly what issues will gain traction, but at least the right-wingers in Northern Ireland gains a stronger voice in the UK in general.
The DUP is a right-wing populist party. The DUP is in favour of a "soft Brexit", opposes a hard Irish border, and wishes to maintain the Common Travel Area.

RKV said...

It's simple enough. May is a remainer.

Doodad said...

OR, a lot of Brits like antisemitic terrorist lovers.