May: a leader who stands for nothing
There has been a great deal of finger-pointing at Theresa May’s former aides, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, following the Tories’ disastrous election result last week. They have been blamed for creating the derided party manifesto, and devising the patronising campaign strategy, that resulted in the Conservatives unexpectedly losing their majority in the House of Commons. When Hill and Timothy were sacked over the weekend, few mourned their departure.
But even if they are partly to blame, the buck should surely stop with the leader. It is May who is supposed to be the one who sets her own agenda and decides whose advice to follow. She should not be absolved of that responsibility.
Katie Perrior, a communications executive who used to work with May and her team in Downing Street, wrote in The Times on Saturday about her experiences with the apparently brash Hill and Timothy: ‘What I could never work out was whether Mrs May condoned their behaviour and turned a blind eye or didn’t understand how destructive they both were.’ She went on to say that the PM rarely stood up to her advisers, even when they came up with ‘batshit crazy ideas’.
It’s not that May was somehow under her advisers’ control. Rather, it is her lack of conviction that made her overly reliant on them. Despite the media attention May has received over the past year, it’s still not clear what she thinks about anything. Her deadening repetition during the campaign of the ‘strong and stable’ slogan was a reminder of this. Subsequent reports have claimed she did not like the slogan, but carried on with it anyway, apparently at the insistence of campaign guru Lynton Crosby.
Let’s not forget that May barely participated in the EU referendum campaign, in which she meekly supported Remain. It was only when the country voted to Leave that she went all in for Brexit. No one is sure whether she truly believes in it or not. On this issue and many others, May comes across as a technocrat with no driving political purpose. In this time of revolt against the technocratic elite, it’s no wonder the electorate rejected her.
Candice Holdsworth is the founder and editor of Imagine Athena.