Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s reputation is experiencing an unexpected resurgence, raising questions about her legacy and influence in contemporary politics.
15th September 2023 – In the ever-shifting landscape of politics, time has a peculiar way of altering our perspectives. It can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, as exemplified by the late Harry Patch, the ‘last fighting Tommy’ of World War I, whose unremarkable war record gained him national hero status due to his longevity.
Similarly, the recent resurgence in the reputation of former UK Prime Minister Theresa May seems to be a phenomenon influenced by the passage of time. It’s challenging to pinpoint any notable achievements in her political career that warrant the accolades she is currently receiving. Her latest book, “The Abuse of Power,” has garnered unexpected praise from unexpected quarters. Moreover, her promotional tour has provided a platform for her to extol her time in 10 Downing Street.
However, try as one might, it’s not easy to recall significant accomplishments from Theresa May’s tenure in office. Before her entry into government, she made a notable impact on the Conservative Party with her infamous characterization of the Tories as the ‘nasty party’ in 2002, a label that has haunted the party ever since.
But beyond this moment, her political journey was characterized by an uneventful progression through shadow ministries, leaving little impression. Even under David Cameron’s leadership, both in opposition and government, her presence remained unobtrusive. As Home Secretary, she assumed the role of a silent partner around the cabinet table. Then, in July 2016, seemingly out of nowhere, she stood on the steps of No. 10 as the Prime Minister.
Yet, one must ask, did she make any substantial contributions while in office? It’s a question that lingers. There’s her mention of running through a wheat field, an anecdote that hardly qualifies as a significant achievement. She also popularized the vague phrase ‘Brexit Means Brexit,’ a statement that lacked substantive meaning, akin to saying ‘eggs are eggs’ or ‘a spade is a spade.’
Theresa May assumed office in 2016, following David Cameron’s resignation in the wake of the Brexit referendum’s outcome. Notably, she had supported the Remain campaign, an unlikely stance for someone who would be responsible for navigating the complexities of Brexit.
However, from the moment she took office, her premiership was marked by uncertainty and indecision. Her mishandling of the 2017 general election resulted in the loss of the Conservative Party’s parliamentary majority. Her attempt to appease both sides of the Brexit debate with a deal that left the UK partially within the EU Single Market only led to prolonged parliamentary deadlock. The memory of a series of so-called ‘meaningful votes’ on Brexit’s nature or whether it should proceed at all still lingers, none of which could secure a majority.
Her premiership was further marred by the resignation of 51 ministers during her first three years in office, including 12 cabinet members. However, the most significant blow came in May 2019 when Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party dealt the governing Conservatives a resounding defeat in the European Parliament elections. The Tories managed to secure just 8.8 percent of the vote. Shortly thereafter, May announced her resignation in July 2019, her Brexit policy in shambles.
Ironically, May recently claimed that her Brexit deal would have been superior to Boris Johnson’s, the same deal that failed to gain parliamentary approval and ultimately led to her departure from office.
So, why is Theresa May currently receiving accolades? Is it because, in comparison to the tumultuous premiership of Boris Johnson, the lackluster performance of Liz Truss, and the gradual fading of Rishi Sunak, she now appears statesmanlike? Some may hold this view, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
One key factor in her resurgence is her pro-Remain stance. Her views align largely with those of the liberal elite, albeit somewhat concealed by her more traditional Conservative image. She has become a symbol used by the political establishment to criticize the populist movement. In essence, she represents a time when technocratic governance still believed it had a divine right to rule—a reminder of the past.
In the current state of her party, perhaps she should have titled her memoir “The Last Fighting Tory.”
This article draws inspiration from Spiked Online Magazine and has been meticulously rewritten to maintain originality and prevent plagiarism.