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Theresa May: Can she lead the UK through the gruelling challenges which lie ahead? (©Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The next two years are likely to be the most gruelling in British peacetime history. Negotiations with the European Union will be fraught, and possibly fruitless. Angela Merkel may come to our rescue, as many Brexiteers hope — or she may not. The pound will probably see-saw and the economy may splutter. Meanwhile Labour will complete its transformation into a fully-fledged anti-Brexit party, and Euro-friendly Tory rebels can be counted on to cause trouble. There are bound to be knife-edge votes in Parliament. EU leaders and officials will repeatedly tell us we are deluded. And as problems pile up, the BBC and the rest of the Remainer media are certain to insist that the government has lost the plot, and Britain is teetering on the edge of catastrophe. There will be ever louder, and perhaps more enticing, calls for us not to leave after all.

It is going to be a very, very difficult time for the Prime Minister of this country. Is it really plausible that Theresa May can lead us successfully through these enormous challenges? Could Churchill have done so? Or Thatcher? If there is any doubt about those heroic leaders, how much more must there be about poor Mrs May.

When she stood outside Downing Street 15 months ago, it seemed to many people — and not just Tories — that the gods which sometimes favour our island race had miraculously spirited up the right saviour. Even some of those who had supported Boris were relieved that we had Theresa. But no modern political reputation has deflated more quickly, not even Gordon Brown’s. She threw away the largest poll lead in recent history, and lost her party its overall Commons majority. In the process this suddenly less likeable and often painfully ill-at-ease woman displayed a fatal combination of pig-headed stubbornness, arrogance, indecisiveness and even political cowardice.

It is not as though Brexit is the only problem looming over her. Jeremy Corbyn, once lampooned by the Tories and written off by the political class, is a short step away from power. Mrs May has utterly failed to characterise him as the extremist he surely is. Neither his past support for the IRA nor his association with Islamic extremists nor his former endorsement of the crazy socialist regime in Venezuela have dented his popularity among younger voters. He plainly taps into many of their aspirations and frustrations — over the lack of affordable housing and the exorbitant cost of a university education, for example — in a way the Tory leadership seems incapable of doing.

The case for the prosecution is pretty straightforward. It is that Theresa May has been wildly over-promoted. She was a competent Home Secretary who, as a result of her own machinations, and the unexpected collapse of the Johnson/Gove ticket, found herself Prime Minister. To begin with, she struck the right note, appearing to connect with the “just about managing” class whose members have never really recovered from the Great Recession. At the Conservative Party conference a year ago she declared that “the government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the rich and powerful but by the interests of ordinary, working-class families.” Unusual — and stirring — words from a modern Tory. But it soon became clear that she did not have a great number of ideas about how to help these people, or about any other issue for that matter, save those implanted in her porous mind by her advisers Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, the so-called “gruesome twosome”. Then came the hike in Snowdonia with her husband Philip, and the fatal decision to call a June election.

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Lawrence James
October 18th, 2017
11:10 AM
How would Churchill managed the present crisis ? Surely the question should be whether he would have allowed himself to be bulldozed into reckless policy whose most likely outcome would be and in all likelihood will be economic collapse.

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