Wednesday 1 November 2017

Theresa May

Published in LibDemVoice 1st Nov 2017

I have been struggling for a while to work out Theresa May’s mentality. I have read, as we all have, something of her origins – the vicar’s daughter who ran through a field of wheat. I am aware of her time at the Home Office where she adopted regressive policies in a pusillanimously oppressive way. I am aware of her stance on the referendum – I find it interesting now that people describe her as a remainer, when it seems to me that the most important thing about her stance at the time was its invisibility.

Then a single word popped into my head which seemed to have a great deal of traction, the word “provincial”. It comes straight from the pages of Trollope, and describes the mindset, which he sometimes satirised to great effect, of the solidly conservative yeoman class which ran the shires of England in the mid nineteenth century. There is much in common between then and now, times of turbulence when the world is changing, power can move with quicksilver speed, the very ground under our feet seems to be shifting, and those determined to hold what they have must work very hard to ensure that things stay the same. There is a concern about standards, loyalty, patriotism (though never stridently stated). There is a feeling that everything will be better if people know their place and stick to it. And there is a feeling that one must never question too closely or demand an account of the people who claim to rule on our behalf. The refusal to publish the Brexit impact papers comes to mind.

Above all these, the key component is a lack of imagination. Or, rather, more than that, there is a refusal to have an imagination. If you have an imagination, then you can imagine things being different, and then you can imagine the status quo being different, and, in the mind of the provincial, who knows what might happen then???

Theresa May is probably the best, though inadequate, answer the Tory party has to its current woes. And she is the worst answer the country could possibly have to its woes. To lead this country requires an imagination, and not just any imagination, but a global imagination, one that is capable of surveying the global horizon, comprehending the feelings and wishes of people in manifold other cultures and places, understanding what mighty and complex storms are coming, and envisaging how the British boat can be navigated through them. (As Brexit proponents try to bend the word “global” to their discourse, I need to point out that a global imagination encompasses the EU rather than discounting it.) But, instead of the global imagination we have a woman whose imagination cannot stretch to anything worse than running through a field of wheat, while she steers the entire country blindly but unerringly towards the rocks.