After a worrying vacuum, Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech – setting out the Government’s general terms for negotiation for Brexit – was a characteristically thoughtful, clear and impressive speech. That was back in mid-January. Since then the Prime Minister has solidified her lead in the polls, her authority – despite a couple of iffy Prime Minister’s Questions – has grown and her stock is still rising. A gauge of her progress can be seen in the increasingly furrowed brow of the only other key woman in British politics, who, just a year ago, was riding high in both polls and reputation – Nicola Sturgeon, now overshadowed.
The Thatcher comparison is at least two election victories away. Nonetheless it is apt given the obvious similarities of circumstances faced by both female Tory Leaders. Both benefiting from a Labour Opposition at war with itself to garner wind behind their sails in their early years in Number 10. Both possessing a useful stubbornness – allowing Thatcher to elbow her way through a man’s world; permitting May to survive the political graveyard of the Home Office and become the longest-serving home secretary since Henry Matthews in 1892.
Our estimation is that Theresa May is one great populist speech away from greatness, even without winning an election.
Such is the magnitude of Brexit for the nation that at some point soon – faced with European spite – there will come a point when May has the opportunity to bat for all of us. It will be then that a speech will lift her from Tory Prime Minister to Prime Minister of the Nation. Thatcher managed such a feat with the Falklands and her handbag. Churchill achieved the honour several times over, in our hours of greatest peril. May can manage the same with Brexit in a choice pair of high heels.
What might such a populist speech entail?
There is nothing more to muster the national spirits than to be told that foreigners are threatening us. Mentions of Juncker, Verhofstadt and the German Schulz should be obligatory. Buy British has surely to come at some point – we must stand with our farmers, our countryside, our small business people and our manufacturers. A call to travel should also be thrown in – assistance in generating wealth for UK PLC in foreign lands and markets. Wrapped in a “We shall not be shunted” and Labour might as well clear out its Westminster offices.
Theresa May has an entourage of wise, pragmatic advisers; some of whom also happen to be thinkers. No other party in Britain right now has the depth of talent at the Prime Minister’s disposal. There’s enough kindness and brutality in Number 10 – the latter shown most recently by the scything down of Lord Heseltine. They are not buffeted by the media or opposition unlike past teams at Number 10; they show a steady hand and are keen to be prepared for all circumstances; ready to play a long game.
Being prepared for all circumstances is what ensures certain victory, for it means you are fighting an enemy who is already beaten. A great strategist follows their moral compass and adheres to their methods of regulation, for these are the means by which they determine victory or defeat. (Sun Tzu)
As long as Mrs May keeps up with her Diabetes regime and continues to make speeches only when she deems fit, she will only need two election victories to achieve immortality.
With Article 50 just days away, we wish her the best of British.
Good luck, Prime Minister.