THERESA MAY AS PRIME MINISTER: THE ILL-FORTUNE OF TOO MUCH EXPERIENCE?
"The first hours of Theresa May’s premiership confirm she will be a breath of fresh air in Westminster. Her debut speech in front of 10 Downing Street on Wednesday focused on One Nationism, a shift away from the David Cameron years that signalled a more interventionist, possibly softer form of Conservativism. In short, a less austere, more caring government. Appealing to those who feel “left behind”, the finger prints of Nick Timothy, her chief of staff, were all over the address. His piece for ConservativeHome on working class conservatism shows the direction he and the prime minister plan to take. She has wasted no time with the first six major appointments to the cabinet. There were two key themes in Mrs May’s thinking behind these roles (as well as the subsequent ones to be announced on Thursday): unity and Brexit".Sebastian Payne, "Theresa May’s premiership is off to an inspired start". The Financial Times. 14 July 2016, in www.ft.com.
"As Tory MPs gathered at St Stephen’s entrance in Parliament to await their new leader on Monday afternoon, a choir in Westminster Hall began to sing. The hosannas spoke to the sense of relief among Tory MPs: they had been spared a long and divisive nine-week leadership contest. A period of political blood-letting brutal even by Tory standards was coming to an end. The United Kingdom would have a new Prime Minister. More than relief, there was hope for the bulk of MPs who had previously not been marked out for advancement. Theresa May’s accession shows that the narrow rules which were thought to govern modern British politics are not hard and fast. May is not one of the shiny people. She isn’t a member of a gilded political set. Her success is the triumph of hard grind, perseverance and determination. She kept her head when all about her were losing theirs".James Forsyth, "Why Tories are so excited about Theresa May". The Spectator. 16 July 2016, in www.spectator.co.uk.
"There seems to be something almost inevitable about the political career of Sir Anthony Eden. With the one exception of his resignation from the Chamberlain Government in 1938 his life has been strangely sheltered. Early marked out as a man of promise, he has seldom run risks, but has proceeded up the rungs of the political ladder in a decorous fashion, proving himself serviceable, to his superiors and with some spectacular exceptions urbane and courteous to his contemporaries and juniors".Randolph S. Churchill. The Rise and Fall of Sir Anthony Eden. (1959), p. 13. There is something to the example (one is tempted to say 'fatal example') of Sir Anthony Eden and after him Gordon Brown and before Sir Anthony Eden, Neville Chamberlain and at the beginning of the twentieth century A. J. Balfour. What example is that? The 'curse' (for lack of a better mot) of too much experience. Or should I say: the wrong type of experience in order to succeed as a British Prime Minister. It is not that 'experience' per se is necessarily a bad thing. Both Lloyd George and Sir Winston Churchill had enormous amounts of experience prior to reaching Number 10 Downing Street. Merely that both had a wide range of experience. Neither man spent their pre-Prime Ministerial career in one senior post to the exclusion of almost everything else. That was the case with all of the other individuals mentioned. Indeed fatally so in the cases of Sir Anthony Eden and Gordon Brown. Both of whom spent ten-years, yes ten-years in one senior Cabinet post (in the case of Eden the Foreign Office, in the case of Brown the Exchequer). One cannot tell of course if Theresa May will fall afoul of this 'curse'. She does share with both Eden and Brown tendency to be both boring (at worse) or uninspiring (at best) speaker. All three were and are not 'clubbable' and glad-handing sort of politician (Neville Chamberlain & Balfour as well), being for the most part, private individuals with few friends outside of their immediate family. The fact that May succeeded in winning the race to Number Ten by in essence avoiding taking sides in the BREXIT debate also does not bode well for her going forward. Equally problematic is the fact that like both Eden and Brown, May has surrounded herself at Ten Downing Street the same coterie of youngish aides who were with her at her departmental office. Aides who are both violently loyal to their chief, but unpopular with the rest of Whitehall 1. This is of course all in the possible future and mere conjecture. And it could very well be that six plus years at the Home Office is not as dangerous to a future prime minister's political skills as say being either Chancellor or Foreign Secretary for ten plus years. To-day Prime Minister May is the toast of the town, at least Westminster. Hopefully this will continue to be so. The portents for those who known their Prime Ministerial history is unfortunately, not the very best. Or as the ancient historian Tacitus once put it about the Emperor Galba: "Omnium consensu capax imperii nisi imperasset". 1. James Forsyth, "She doesn't do likes: Theresa May won't be exciting but she may well be radical". The Spectator. 16 July 2016, p. 12; George Parker, Kate Allen and Oliver Ralph, "Nick Timothy: Theresa May’s political ‘brain’". The Financial Times. 15 July 2016, in www.ft.com. As per the remarks of the British political commentator Bruce Anderson: "Mrs May cannot do everything herself. She will have to learn to trust her ministers. Central strategic direction from No.10: essential. Attempts to micro-manage every aspect of policy: futile and fatal. Assuming that she does want efficiency, she has made life unnecessarily hard for herself by two important appointments: Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, her new chiefs of staff. Michael Fraser, who eventually became Lord Fraser of Kilmorack, ran the Tory Party’s operations for a generation. He had a famous dictum: the back-room boys should stay in the back room. That is not how Miss Hill and Mr Timothy work. They will see enemies everywhere. When they do not find them, they will create them". See: Bruce Anderson, "Theresa May’s team is not built to last". Reaction. 18 July 2016, in http://reaction.life/theresa-mays-team-not-built-last/