The days of 20 point poll leads have been long forgotten, the prospect of a Thatcher-style landslide vanishing with them. In office but, as was said of her predecessor “Shagger” Major, not in power, Theresa May is proving to be a worse Prime Minister than the most pessimistic opposition pundit could have imagined, lurching from one spectacular PR fail to the next, the robotic rabbit caught in the glare of those reality headlights.
All those candidates who proudly led their General Election leaflets telling “I’m standing with Theresa May” and who came to regret it as they either failed to be elected, or in some cases re-elected. And all those pundits who had hitched their reputations to the May wagon, assuring anyone who would listen that here was a winner, a politician in whom one could have faith that she would do what was best for Britain.
Now has come the moment when the hastily contrived myth of May has been utterly shattered, with all the habits already known coming together to produce the cruellest unmasking of a politician so inept, the only wonder is how she was allowed to rise to the height of premiership without anyone noticing long ago that she was not up to it. Theresa May’s time in office is done. The problem for all concerned is admitting it.
The Grenfell Tower fire is her Suez, her Royal Diana moment, her Black Wednesday all rolled into one, a combination of delusion, cold detachment and bad policy consequence. It is the crisis that has hit her with torrential force. She will not recover. She is unable to grasp the significance of the tragedy, unwilling to face the families and relatives, incapable of empathy, and unfit to lead her people to a way out, a better place.
Questions rain down on her in interview after interview; none are even addressed, let alone answered. One by one, the most faithful of supporters begin publicly to harbour doubts as to her suitability to lead. Privately, yet more backers peel away, realising the game is up. Only the diehards in the press, and the Tory Party, remain at her side, but they know they backed the wrong horse; all are about to lose their shirts.
(c) Steve Bell 2017
The only remaining unknown is that Tory Party. Those who wield influence there know she is heading for a fall. Do they fall with her? Can they fashion some other salvation before becoming just another part of the wreckage? Or are they doomed to repeat the mid 1990s, knowing they and their leader are headed for electoral oblivion, but powerless to do anything about it? Their room for manoeuvre is as limited as it is swiftly vanishing.
For the present, Theresa May staggers and stumbles on, devoid of direction as a ship rudderless in a storm. Another crisis at home, a party scandal, a clutch of by-election reverses, a Brexit negotiation débacle, any or all of these are eminently possible, if not moderately probable. The next General Election will be a reckoning when few, if any, of the scares and smears used in the past will still resonate with a newly cynical electorate.
Theresa May is finished. The only remaining imponderable is whether she can survive the rest of the year.