Where did it go wrong for Theresa May? | Tamsin Richardson

When Theresa may was first appointed the leader of the Conservative party she was a woman in demand. May was going to take Britain out of Europe, boldly declaring that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. She was a woman in charge and had the vision to detoxify the Tory brand and help out the working class. Today she is a leader whose party is in crisis; who is unable to take the UK out of Europe and who is facing calls from all angles to resign. As the Conservatives face record losses in the council and European elections I think it is time to examine where it went wrong for Threasa may.  

When she was first appointed Prime Minister the Conservatives had a working majority of 17. Deciding that she needed a bigger majority Threasa may called a snap election. The Conservatives were leading, at their highest, 21 points in front of labor.  A landslide victory was even suggested at one point. However soon after that, the Conservatives began losing the support of the electorate. Theresa May rebranded the Conservatives as “her team”; with all the official election material declaring an election for Theresa may and “her team”. Primarily this was a move towards presidentialism which should not be used in a parliamentary democracy. However, it was also a bad move from Theresa May who was running a cult of personality despite having no personality. Ultimately Theresa May lost electoral support as she was seen as wooden and having a lack of charisma. Her fast-gained reputation of phrases like “strong and stable” and “coalition of chaos” meant she faced widespread ridicule.  

May must take responsibility for this horrific defeat. The Tories were reaping the success of Jeremy Corbyn’s divisive leadership and a far-left Labour party. It was her unwillingness to engage with the public and the press that led to this defeat.

Quickly, the honeymoon period was over. After this election was over the Conservatives had to enter a “confidence and supply agreement” with the DUP. May had humiliated her party – this was particularly devastating after warning against a coalition of chaos in the general election. Her image was further tarnished after giving the DUP a one billion pound settlement, with critics highlighting some of the DUP’s views on issues like homosexuality and abortion rights.  

Ultimately though, Theresa May will be remembered as the Prime Minister who failed to deliver on Brexit in time. Her Withdrawal Agreement being rejected 3 times in parliament was a humiliating defeat for the Prime Minister. She will preside over a period of record losses in the council elections- the Tories are polling at their worst in 16 years. Historically she may be remembered as a leader who did her best throughout a turbulent period in British history. However, that is of no comfort to the disgruntled members and the public who feel betrayed.  

The most striking theme of Theresa May’s premiership is that of a wasted premiership. Theresa May could have had it all and been in charge of a newly independent striving Britain. Clearly a competent minister- she was the longest running home secretary-  surviving and shining in a notoriously difficult department. She has wasted opportunities to detoxify the Tories and now the Conservatives are as divided as ever. The only question to ask now is: who will succeed her?

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