Mayday! How Theresa May has blown it even if she wins
PUBLISHED: 08:18 02 June 2017 | UPDATED: 08:18 02 June 2017
This wasn’t in the script...
... it was certainly not how it had played out in her head on that Snowdonia walk with Philip, when she and the country were still honeymooning. Not remotely.
It seems so bloody long ago now and she wonders if all that Welsh mountain air hadn’t actually given her a fit of the dizzies. What was she thinking?
No-one to blame but herself. There have been moments when she’s blamed Lynton and his bloody algorithms, but she’s not stupid. She knows she got carried away. Not at all like her to do that. Out of character. Conservative with a big and a small c.
It probably won’t matter in the end. Lynton’s got a few more Corbyn hand grenades to hand to the Sun and the Mail. Sometimes she looks at their front pages and wonders how they get away with it. But she’s glad they do, even if she knows there’s always a heavy price to pay with that lot further down the line.
She hopes most people aren’t really paying all that much attention anyway. It’s not like many of them are glued to the Parliament Channel all day, or reading that laughable remoaner rag whatever it was called.
There is a real world out there. Away from all the slogans and electioneering. Most people just getting on with it, with all their just about managing problems. That’s why she has to keep it on Brexit.
Last thing she wanted was the NHS, or infrastructure, or education getting on to the agenda. And with friends like Jeremy Hunt, telling anyone who’ll listen that Brexit means less money for the health service, well.. who needs enemies! He’ll be joining Hammond and Johnson on the naughty step once this is all over. And by naughty step, she means those benches so far up at the back they’ll get a bloody nosebleed.
Keep it simple, Lynton said. “Making a sucess of Brexit”. That’s all she was left with. Everything else a bloody minefield. Don’t even mention immigration. Or social care. That gives her the shudders.
Nick Robinson had been in Harrogate, talking to real voters, the ones she never got to meet at her stage-managed canvassing expeditions. He asked them what they made of that bloody phrase of Lynton’s that now hung around her neck like a bad joke. They’d never even heard of it! Eight of them, and not one had heard the phrase “strong and stable”. Even though she’d said it so many times now the words had started to stick in her mouth; red lorry, yellow lorry. Thank god. It sounded utterly absurd after all the u-turns and the terrible TV performances. Weak and wobbly. Bloody hell, they’d handed them that one a plate.
Most of them, the people in the real world, couldn’t even understand why we’re even having this election. There have been quite a few times lately when she couldn’t understand it either.
It had all seemed so obvious, coming down off that mountain. Head clear, courage plucked, polls soaring. No-one could blame her for going for it. How easy it was going to be to kick old Jeremy around. And how those bastards in her own party would love her for finally nailing him and his party into a box, once and for all. Nothing but upside.
But she’s not naive. Blame her they surely would. Whatever happens now, this has put a big dent in her. No denying it. Even if she wins, this’ll go down as one of the worst campaigns ever run. How was it possible she started out looking like Maggie at the despatch box and ended up looking like Richard Nixon on the telly? Sweating and truculent. Being jeered! Being laughed at!
Meanwhile, Brexit bloody Brexit. It wasn’t her mess, but it had become her opportunity. She was just about managing to put on a brave face but inside she was facing into the truth; she’d overreached.
It troubles her, this sense of personal frailty. Shakes her confidence. What keeps her up though, at three in the morning when all the dark imaginings came flooding in (and in this last week before the vote there were so many dark imaginings) was how had Corbyn managed it?
Sincerity, they keep saying. Even bloody Farage, on bloody Twitter, calling him sincere. She was sincere, too! Why couldn’t they see that? She had plenty of convictions. It was just that they kept changing all the time.
But she couldn’t seem weak. Not now. That would be a disaster. Lynton’s algorithm was very clear now (though wasn’t it always?): Five words would be enough. “Make a success of Brexit”.
Didn’t matter that she had no idea how, or why, or what those other 27 nations were plotting against her. Because now it was all about her. She’d made it so. “Theresa May’s Team”. But even she had her doubts now. Not doubts that she’d win. To lose was inconceivable. But doubts about herself. How had she, the great controller, allowed herself to trip up like this? Maybe that was why the lip had started to sweat so much.
She remembers that first week, when there was no doubt, just pure untrammelled confidence. The meeting with the Queen, and then that glorious tub-thumper of a speech about enemies at the gate. Christ, she felt strong that day. Hand of history on her shoulder and all that stuff.
She wishes she could get a bit of that magic back in her step but it’s tricky. Tricky being tricky. Having to be vague all the time. Prevaricating. Trying to find a convincing way to explain why you’re ducking TV debates. Saying the same meaningless garbage over and over. Not when you don’t believe it. Not when they’re laughing at you. And the dread of knowing what lies ahead and what they’ll do to you if it goes badly. When it all goes badly. Because she’s not daft. She knows there’s no happy ending to Brexit.
She could do with a holiday.
But not Wales. It’s going to be quite a while before she goes bloody walking in Wales again.
Matt Kelly, Editor