Theresa May is dispassionate, risk averse and media shy or, in other words, more of a civil servant than a political leader, writes Ayesha Hazarika.
I’m normally a bit of a softy. I get weepy at cheesy films and once even shed a tear over a car advert (although I was incredibly hungover). I try to look out for the underdog and try to be a good feminist sister – but I can’t muster much sympathy for Theresa May.
I admit I did feel a wee pang when the architect of her weapons-grade political failure, her former special adviser Nick Timothy, slagged her off in the national media – proving once again that politics isn’t just showbiz for ugly people – they can be monumentally nasty too.
But having said all that, I’m afraid the situation is of her own making (and Timothy’s to be fair).
The speech she made on Tuesday is the one she should have made when she became Prime Minister. She chose to negotiate with the Conservative MPs of the ERG – the men in grey suits now coming to get her – and set herself impossible red lines.
If she had reached out to other parties in Westminster, other politicians on her own side, businesses, trade unions, the nations and regions, things could have been different.
I’m not saying that they would have been a walk in the park, but the art of the deal in politics is building personal relationships and making people feel they own a bit of the solution so they can claim some credit and be part of the story – which is what politicians love more than anything.
But she’s incapable of doing that. She is no doubt a clever, hardworking, dutiful person – but she is not a politician.
She should have been a civil servant. Her risk averse, media shy, diligent, dispassionate qualities would have made her an excellent Cabinet Secretary. But a Prime Minister she is not.
You need to be able to connect on some human level, which she just cannot do.
I recall standing on College Green outside Parliament with Mrs May around 10 years ago when I was working for Harriet Harman, who was then Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Minister for Women.
May shadowed her and they often went head-to-head on TV and radio debates. Ironically it was around the time of the 2009 European elections when Labour had a really difficult evening.
She and I were wearing the same shoes, leopard print flats. What? I can’t help it if the woman has taste – sue me! That’s the kind of banal detail that you can make some small talk around, but she gave me nothing. Just a grimace.
I think I asked her if she had got them full price and was met with stony silence. For the record, I do not possess expensive brown leather trousers.
May likes to say she’s a feminist, but she denounced many of the things that Harman fought for.
She may have unveiled the statue of Millicent Fawcett, but her refusal to help the women of Northern Ireland on abortion and health rights speaks volumes.
And her small-minded, “little England” obsession with immigration, which led to the hostile environment policy while she was Home Secretary, did untold damage to race relations in this country, along with the Windrush scandal.
So spare me the tears. It’s a great privilege to be Prime Minister. But I’m afraid she’s squandered her precious time.