“Prime Minister Theresa May has chaired the first meeting of a new cabinet committee focused on building an economy “that works for everyone”. This is the opening paragraph in one of the leading stories on the BBC website tonight. Almost half of the new cabinet is a member of this new committee, including the likes of Liam Fox, Chris Grayling, Andrea Leadsom and Sajid Javid from the hard right of the Tory party. An economy “that works for everyone?” You cannot be serious.
We’ve heard all this flannel before from David Cameron when he was leader of the opposition. Warm words about how he was the man to fix Broken Britain, to give everyone better opportunities in life. What a load of old tosh that was. Given power in 2010, Cameron broke what wasn’t already broken, undoing much of the good done by the tired outgoing Labour government. From warm words to savage deeds, launching a full frontal attack on the most vulnerable people in society. And now he has gone, replaced by a new prime minister who announces, “We need a proper industrial strategy that focuses on improving productivity, rewarding hardworking people with higher wages and creating more opportunities for young people so that, whatever their background, they go as far as their talents will take them.” The sheer brass neck of the woman.
Unless I am very much mistaken, this is the same Theresa May who voted for all of Cameron’s austerity policies, all his attacks on the vulnerable and, off her own bat, sent loads of vans round London telling immigrants to “piss off”. (I am not sure if these were the actual words she used, but she might as well have done.) If you think this is somehow a brand new era in Tory politics, you have not been paying attention. You are not the only one.
She is still developing her cliches to repeat ad infinitum to the electorate. Cameron had a few, like “long term economic plan”, “the mess we inherited from Labour”, “living within our means” and so on. All empty rhetoric, but said often enough the message, such as it was, got through. Anyone who canvassed for Labour at the last general election will have heard these comments from voters on the doorstep. So far, May is repeating the mantra “Brexit means Brexit”, as vacuous a slogan you will ever hear since no one, not even the hardline leavers, has the faintest idea of what Brexit will look like. Don’t believe a word when the Tory press says she is somehow a breath of fresh air. It’s going to be the same old same old.
Once her honeymoon period has ended, I predict that her premiership will end up broken at the altar of Europe. It is the death of all Tory leaders. Whatever Brexit deal is finally done, the swivel-headed brigade on the right wing fringes will call it a sell out. Nothing, barring the end to all movement and trade between Britain and Europe will ever be sufficient to them. It is certain that May, an astute political operator, will know this and will try to steer around future crises concerning Europe. It won’t work.
In the next few months, the real state of our post Brexit economy will become more clear and it won’t be pretty. When Project Fear turns out to have been Project Truth, May will be under attack from all corners, at least in her own party. (With the leader of her majesty’s opposition touring the country, trying desperately to get people who already agree with him to agree with him, May will only be looking at her own benches for problems.)
With an economy likely to tank in the autumn and years of messy negotiations with the EU ahead, these should not be great times for the Conservative Party. But the way things are right now, you’d imagine May might need to start culling the first born of every family to make a dent in her lead in the polls.