It’s not getting any better for Theresa May. It’s not getting any better for the rest of us either as Theresa and her not so merry band of Tory malignities drive us all closer and closer to the inevitable precipice, but at least we can enjoy a spot of Schadenfreude at Theresa’s difficulties along the way. Our Prime Minister is blessed with an unerring capacity to find a swamp to get mired in, and usually it’s one that she made for herself.
It was supposed to be easy. It was supposed to be a nice wee cosy chat with a friendly face. You know, the sort of penetrating and hard hitting interview that Ruth Davidson favours when she’s posing with a kitten in front of the cameras as her pals in the Scottish press ask her to explain just how god-awful the SNP is. There was Theresa, trotting along to have a nice wee chat with that lovely Iain Dale on his LBC radio show. That’s the Iain who was once a Conservative party parliamentary candidate. So Theresa was expecting a comfortable and cosy fireside chat, allowing her to indulge herself in her true political love, which is using as many words as possible to say nothing very much in particular, and reestablish her authority over her restless party after the debacle [cough cough] of her speech to the party conference.
Mind you, her wee chat with Iain was going to involve taking questions from the public, but these could safely be dealt with by Theresa’s usual tactic of answering an entirely different question to the one that had been posed. They were only punters, and could be cut off. If only she could do the same with the rest of the Conservative party, her life might be slightly more bearable. A woman called to ask how Theresa was going to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK in the event of there being no Brexit deal with the EU. Theresa assured her that she was looking for the best deal, even though in parliament the previous day she had aired the possibility that there might be no deal at all. She was going to guarantee the rights of EU citizens by not telling them what their rights might be. So that was all clear then. At least to Theresa’s satisfaction if to no one else’s. She was being very clear. You always know that Theresa is being vague and evasive when she makes a point of telling you how clear she’s being.
Iain suddenly ceased being the cuddly Conservative offering a fireside chat, and started to poke Theresa with a red hot poker. Or at least a metaphorical one. Three times he tried to press her to give a reply, and three times she talked about something else entirely. After a soul destroying few minutes for any EU citizens listening, and indeed for anyone who actually possesses a soul – which discounts most members of the government – she finally conceded that no EU citizen was going to be thrown out. By which she meant that she herself was not personally going to send round the deportation teams to round them up and ship them out of the nearest ferry port, but if they wanted to leave of their own accord after losing many of their civil rights and being turned into third class human beings, Theresa wasn’t going to see that as her problem. This is one of the ways in which Brexit is going to make us all proud to be British, like the Opium Wars, or the theft of the marbles from the Parthenon, or anything that ever comes out of Piers Morgan’s mouth.
Then the poker came in for the kill. Iain pointed out with the poker that Jeremy Hunt has changed his mind on Brexit. Previously Jeremy opposed Brexit, but now he’s in favour because George Osborne’s dire predictions haven’t come true yet. So, Iain asked, how would Theresa vote if there was to be another EU referendum? To be fair, being told that Jeremy Hunt thinks Brexit is going just dandy isn’t much of a recommendation. After all this is the guy who’s ruined the NHS in England but still claims it’s in robust good health. Being asked to agree with Jeremy Hunt is a bit like conceding you don’t know the difference between a mild head cold and the Ebola virus.
Faced with the prospect of having to agree with Jeremy’s judgement, Theresa repeatedly refused to give an answer. It was a simple yes and no question, but this put her in the position of not being able to give a simple answer to a simple question. I’m not going to deal with hypothetical situations, she pleaded unconvincingly.
She could have lied, and claimed that she was now confident in her own policies and so would vote to leave. Or she could have told the truth and said that she was a remain voter, but the British people had their say in the EU referendum and as a democratically elected politician it was more important for her to do her duty and attempt to deliver the magic unicorns, fairy princesses, and golden egg laying geese that they’d voted for.
Theresa voted remain in the EU referendum, albeit none too enthusiastically, but now she’s the woman who is taking the UK out of the EU, who is leading negotiations and is planning the country’s future, one which she’s always telling us is going to be a rip roaring buccaneering free marketing success. By refusing to answer the question, she was telling us all that even she has no confidence in the policies that she’s trying to sell to the rest of us. By avoiding the question she’s only decreased what little confidence remained in her, and decreased the little confidence that remained that she’s able to produce a Brexit that’s not going to create huge damage to the country.
Today the Conservatives are out telling the media that of course Theresa was correct to refuse to answer the question. There’s not going to be another referendum so the question is purely hypothetical, they said in her defence. But Theresa deals with hypothetical situations all the time – like the hypothetical situation that the Conservative party is united and there’s no challenge to her leadership. Or the hypothetical situation in which Boris Johnson manages to get through a week without talking Jackie Baillie about some foreign leader. Or the hypothetical situation in which the British government is halfway competent and Brexit isn’t going to be an unmitigated disaster.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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