Yesterday evening’s TV debate, held in Cambridge and hosted by the BBC, was given the additional spice of Jeremy Corbyn turning up to represent Labour, and use the opportunity, as did the other participants, of asking the obvious question: given that the Labour leader was there, along with the leaders of the Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP and Plaid Cymru, where was Theresa May? But our allegedly fearless Prime Minister was nowhere to be seen.
Instead, the Tories were represented by Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who managed a few decent lines, but was always on the back foot when confronted with six other participants (the SNP was represented by Angus Robertson, their head man at Westminster) who made hay at her boss chickening out of the scrap.
And then came the news that the Tory press has been spinning all night: Amber Rudd’s father Tony had died on Monday. He was 93, and had served in World War 2. Tony Rudd had, along the way, been a journalist and had covered the Suez crisis for the Guardian. That would have taken some bottle to do: the Guardian was the only national daily to stand against Anthony Eden’s folly, and took a circulation hit as a result.
The Telegraph found a source who told “The family got together on Tuesday night with all the children to celebrate their father's life. Their father took such pride in her he would have loved it. He was actually looking forward to watching this debate … It would have been madness for her (not to take part) - it's just not what her father would have wanted”.
And the Murdoch Sun wanted readers to know “BRAVE Amber Rudd stood up to debate Jeremy Corbyn tonight despite the death of her elderly father on Monday, the Sun can reveal … The Home Secretary refused to step down from the frontline of the Election campaign after her frail 93 year-old Dad Tony passed away … Last night, friends confirmed the retired stockbroker had died but she wanted to keep campaigning … One pal said: ‘It just shows how tough she is’”. It shows something else, too.
It was left to Labour’s Barry Gardiner to say what many were thinking: “My deep condolences to Amber. At any time, to have your father die is a real tragedy for anyone. I know the pressures that are on politicians during an election campaign and the fact that she has been prepared to come and do that shows that she is an estimable woman. But what does it say about Theresa May that knowing that Amber had been through that, she forced her to do it rather than to come in there and stand up for herself?”
After Harold Macmillan - the man who succeeded Eden after Suez - had sacked several cabinet colleagues in what became known as “The Night of the Long Knives”, Liberal MP Jeremy Thorpe observed “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his life”. Our callous and cowardly Prime Minister has now gone one better, by sending a grieving colleague out to defend the Tories’ record.
Theresa May does not deserve to be returned as Prime Minister. She is an empty and evasive campaigner, utterly devoid of empathy, and like a rabbit in the headlights when it comes to actually answering questions.
Now we know she is the lowest kind of coward.