Steve Beauchampé considers a political humiliation of Shakespearian proportions.
It is often said that what the Conservative Party craves above all else is power, and the events of Friday morning showed how ruthless is their pursuit of it. Before most people were even awake, the party, having worked out the (admittedly fairly straightforward) mathematics, had reached a tacit agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party concerning a loose coalition and shortly afterwards Theresa May was visiting the Queen, seeking – and receiving – her majesties’ permission to form a government. Thus instantly was snuffed out even the very remote possibility of a left-leaning alliance operating as a minority government.
Despite Theresa May’s truly arrogant and insulting election campaign, and the increasing public antipathy towards her, the party had quickly realised that May’s future must be put to one side, to be dealt with later. And as the biggest party and recipient of the most votes, it is unquestionably their democratic right to continue to try and govern.
Yet that arrogance, that hubris, that lack of humility, that sense of entitlement, each was in full effect within hours as the Prime Minister, who could barely bring herself to mention her own party’s name during the campaign, suddenly made reference, not just to the Conservative Party, but to the Conservative and Unionist Party as she stood in Downing Street, acting as if nothing had happened.
Well she is wrong. Theresa May is the most broken of Prime Ministers about to begin the most crucial of negotiations Britain has faced in living memory with barely a clue anymore as to what it is that she wants or how she might achieve it even if she did. And the country that she leads is as divided as ever, geographically, demographically and generationally, whilst she has proved herself wholly incapable of bringing about any sense of national unity.
Her party re-enters government lacking vision and with a joyless message of ongoing austerity and an almost total lack of empathy with virtually every key section of the electorate. She may have secured the most votes, but almost no-one voted for her with any sense of enthusiasm. She lacks authority within her own party, within her own country and amongst those considerably more sophisticated and better prepared European politicians with whom she has to talk in little over a week.
As Conservative MP Nigel Evans said: “It was a Rolls Royce machine at the beginning, but it was a clapped out Robin Reliant at the end of the period.” Quite so.