I have been a Conservative since I turned 18 years old. My parents were active members of their local Conservative Party. They were highly political and insisted that we talked about politics inside the home. My mother has always been Conservative; she is that old-fashioned kind of Tory who felt that if you worked hard in life then you earned status and money and that was something to be proud of. She believed in low levels of tax simply because she thought people needed to take responsibility for earning their lot and taking care of their families. She disliked a large state and above all dependence on the state; she sees it as a sign of weakness. She welcomes privatisation (not of the NHS though!) and believed it encouraged competition that could only benefit the economy and individuals. My father changed his political views when he reached his 30s. He had been a member of the Labour Party but became disillusioned with it because of, what he saw, as the lack of aspiration for the working classes. With Conservatism, he believed that people could achieve what they wanted through hard work. He grew up on a council estate in Larne, Northern Ireland, went to University, achieved 2 first class degrees, and became a Professor in a University department. His school teachers and friends told him that his status in life would be working in the local steel factory and getting a council house. His parents were so furious that they became Conservative party activists. It’s a story that made a big impression on me as I was growing up.
Like many others, I was pleased when Theresa May replaced David Cameron after he resigned after the unexpected result in the EU referendum in June 2016. I had been impressed with her performance as Home Secretary and I thought she would make a decent PM. Whilst, in retrospect, I was more assured by her authoritative demeanour than her policies (given when we know now regarding her failure to deal with the threat of prospective Jihadis over a 6 year period and the removal of many community police officers), I felt confident that she would provide socially progressive policies that would benefit all parts of society. More crucially, I thought she would provide a more acceptable face, less nasty and elitist, than that of tory Etonians such as Cameron and Johnson, which would appeal to all social classes. Overall, I had high hopes that she would be a success and that, above all, could provide optimism to those that felt left behind in society. I thought she would protect the Union, keep Nicola Sturgeon in check, and be tough on terrorism. I hoped that we could see more of the human side of Theresa May as she appeared robotic (I can see why she has earned the nickname ‘Maybot’) and awkward. But she remained popular with the public given that the opposition was hopeless under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. It was all going rather well. Then she made one mistake after the other which led to her party failing to achieve a majority on 8 June:
1. She called a snap election despite saying several times that she never would.
2. She took success for granted given her standing in the polls.
3. She failed to engage with the wider public, choosing instead to talk with pre-arranged smaller groups whilst Jeremy performed at large rallies.
4. The Conservative manifesto was dull, pessimistic, and unexciting, in contrast to the Labour Party manifesto which was bold and costed.
5. She became more robotic as the campaign progressed whilst Jeremy Corbyn blossomed.
I was willing to stick with her, particularly as Brexit negotiations are due to begin in just over a week’s time, until she made that dreadful speech on the steps of No. 10 on the afternoon of 9 June.
There was no contrition, regret or humility; it was ‘business as usual’ with little recognition that she had not only lost the support of swathes of the public but also members of her own party. She was no longer strong and stable; in fact she was, and is, damaged goods. Here is what she said on 9 June:
I have just been to see Her Majesty the Queen, and I will now form a government – a government that can provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country.
This government will guide the country through the crucial Brexit talks that begin in just 10 days, and deliver on the will of the British people by taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union.
It will work to keep our nation safe and secure by delivering the change that I set out following the appalling attacks in Manchester and London – cracking down on the ideology of Islamist extremism and all those who support it. And giving the police and the authorities the powers they need to keep our country safe.
The government I lead will put fairness and opportunity at the heart of everything we do, so that we fulfil the promise of Brexit together and – over the next 5 years – build a country in which no one and no community is left behind.
A country in which prosperity and opportunity are shared right across this United Kingdom.
What the country needs more than ever is certainty, and having secured the largest number of votes and the greatest number of seats in the general election, it is clear that only the Conservative & Unionist Party has the legitimacy and ability to provide that certainty by commanding a majority in the House of Commons.
As we do, we will continue to work with our friends and allies in the Democratic Unionist Party in particular. Our 2 parties have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years, and this gives me the confidence to believe that we will be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.
This will allow us to come together as a country and channel our energies towards a successful Brexit deal that works for everyone in this country – securing a new partnership with the EU which guarantees our long-term prosperity.
That’s what people voted for last June.
That’s what we will deliver.
Now let’s get to work.
To believe in her again, after the catastrophic mistakes of the last 8 weeks, I would like to imagine now what she could have, and should have, said on 9 June (in shorter form):
Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. I have just been to see Her Majesty the Queen and she has asked me to form a new government. I would like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to vote in a second election in the space of one year.
After a disappointing election for my party, I would like to ask for your support in doing this. Mindful that we have very important Brexit negotiations ahead, I think it is important that we provide some stability and continuity to ensure that this happens. Delaying these negotiations would go against the wishes of the people who voted to leave the European Union on 23 June. I am committed to these negotiations and I promise that I will put the interests of the British people at the heart of these negotiations. There are plenty of other things we need to do and I would like to ask for your support for this too.
In this election, the Conservative Party is the largest party, gaining 42.6% of the vote. I regret that we did not achieve an overall majority. I am delighted that we gained 13 seats in Scotland, showing that we indeed can be a force for good in Scotland as the Union is very important to me. I would like to thank Ruth Davidson for working with great enthusiasm and dedication to make this happen. She can be assured that she has my full support, as do the Scottish people. I would also like to pay tribute to the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. His party gained over 40% of the national vote and he has proved to be an effective and hard-working leader. Therefore, I would like to consult Mr Corbyn as we embark on these crucial Brexit negotiations so that his views, and those of his supporters, can play an important part in these negotiations. We will also be relying on the support of the DUP who will help us by supporting us on the big economical decisions. We have much to learn from them as they support a soft Brexit, the triple lock pension and the retention of the Winter fuel allowance for all pensioners. We disagree on other issues. But this will not be a coalition, but rather a ‘confidence and supply. Agreement.
I would also like to pay tribute to those hard-working and talented Conservative Party MPs who have lost their jobs. I have made direct contact with them and I will do everything that I can to support them at this difficult time and assure them that we will not abandon them.
In conclusion, I want to ensure that the needs of the British people will be at the heart of everything we do over the coming months and I promise you that I wish to listen to you at every stage as we move forward. I stand here as your elected Prime Minister and ask that you support me as we move forward in a more collective atmosphere.
There is no mileage in John McDonnell’s statement that there should be an election in the next few weeks; the public cannot stomach another election so soon after this one. As George Osborne said this week, Theresa May is probably a “dead woman walking”. It is my prediction that she will stay on as a leader until after the Conservative Party conference and then will step down. I think Sir Michael Fallon would be excellent as a new leader. The next priority within the next 6-12 months is to move the excellent Ruth Davidson down from Scotland to Westminster, make her an MP, and train her as the next leader. She is neither elitist or snooty but can have an appeal for all walks of society.