Leader comment: Theresa May's hold on power will prove costly

The words 'strong and stable' will haunt the rest of the Prime Minister's political career, if she manages to survive what is the most turbulent time in British politics in over 40 years '“ and this after promising us stability.

Theresa May assembled her Cabinet yesterday before attending a 1922 Committee meeting, as the Prime Minister tried to press on with business as usual.
Theresa May assembled her Cabinet yesterday before attending a 1922 Committee meeting, as the Prime Minister tried to press on with business as usual.

It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.
There have been warning signs along the way, which with the benefit of hindsight were more like sirens. Theresa May backed the Remain campaign, until she launched her leadership campaign with the slogan “Brexit means Brexit”. There was no need for a general election, she insisted, until she changed her mind. Social care costs needed a bigger contribution from those who need support, we were told without warning, until the policy was re-written just as abruptly.

What we have in place of stability is inconsistency, and a sense that Mrs May will do whatever she thinks necessary to protect herself. Her shift on Brexit could be forgiven as recognition of the requirement of a pragmatic position in a scenario she could not change, but there is no benefit of the doubt to be given over her about-turns on holding an election, and the so-called dementia tax. Both reversals were motivated by her desire for power, rather than what was best for the country.

Mrs May’s self-interest was again to the fore at the weekend as her advisers paid the price for electoral failure, following the threat of a leadership challenge if the Prime Minister did not remove them. And now we have Mrs May attempting to negotiate a deal with the DUP … to keep her in power.

However, this scrambling around to find a way of securing a Commons majority is likely to be her undoing. While the DUP is popular in Northern Ireland, many in the rest of the UK will find the party’s values unpalatable. That includes senior figures in Mrs May’s own party, with Scottish leader Ruth Davidson and Scottish Secretary David Mundell both voicing concern over the DUP’s position on gay rights.

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Others will object to the DUP’s opposition to women’s rights to choose to have an abortion, and the influence of a party which attracts support from a paramilitary group.

The danger for the Conservatives is that the longer Mrs May clings on, the more she alienates the electorate, and the more attractive an opposition Jeremy Corbyn becomes. And with a further general election looking likely, the Prime Minister’s desperate measures are storing up trouble.

Mrs May told her MPs yesterday that she would serve them as long as they want her. As the full consequences of a deal with the DUP become clear, she is likely to find that her own future, like most of her recent actions, doesn’t have many prospects beyond the short-term.