Our Political Correspondent Examines Whether Theresa May be a Bloody Difficult Woman
A bloody difficult woman?
Ken Clarke’s salty aside caught by the microphones in the Sky News studio did much to land Theresa May the top job when Cameron stood down.
But is the compliment justified?
All the evidence is her premiership is currently holed just above the Plimsoll line. Tory MP’s of all stripes are queuing up to rubbish her, and the number of letters formally calling for her to go is dangerously close to the 48 needed to trigger a contest.
Why? Because they don’t think she’s difficult enough.
Brexiteers believe she’s letting remainer mandarins in the civil service force her into going soft on the EU departure terms.
Those who are praying for just that are convinced she’s allowing Boris and Gove to prevent it.
At some point, er, soon, she’s got to tell the world if she’s Arthur or Martha.
It’s said she’s been working on the big speech setting out exactly what she does want from the next round of talks with the EU 27, but the drafting process has stalled because she can’t decide what to say.
Understandable, up to a point.
She was a limp-wristed remainer – much like Corbyn – in the run-up to the referendum.
More to the point she shares his present predicament. Plumping for soft or hard will alienate something like as many people as it will delight. And May’s got form on getting calculations like that wrong. The snap general election that shafted her majority springs to mind.
One false move could mean the nation faces another poll, and she faces oblivion.
There has to be a small part of Jeremy’s brain terrified at the thought. How cool it might be to clasp the hands of adoring fans in his triumphant march up Downing Street, but then there’ll be the annoying little matter of running the country.
His domestic prospectus is clear enough. And doubtless he’d win some, lose some. That’s politics.
But EU policy is in another league. A sizeable slice of the electorate almost certainly does not give a tuppenny tiddle about Europe, but the deal that’s finally struck really will impact on all of us – one way or another.
The problem’s compounded by the fact that the referendum promised so casually by Cameron to outflank Ukip has unleashed so much visceral energy, flushing tedious little details like facts down the lavvy.
Thing is, they’re all thick oop north. All they do is keep whippets, hate foreigners and vote leave.
Against that they’re arrogant bastards down south. Plummy accents, Polish plumbers. Unpatriotic.
A bit of an oversimplification, perhaps. But easier to get your head round than macroeconomics.
So class warriors are dug in. A Guardian/ICM poll last week gave a second referendum a 16-point lead. But it also indicated the crucial in-out figures haven’t changed much. This suggests all the two opposing camps want is proof they were right all along.
Which brings us back to May, and a persuasive argument against standing against her.
Never mind bloody difficult woman, she’s in a bloody impossible situation.
The decidedly dapper Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, with London Broadcasting and Sky News. He’s interviewed every Prime Minister from Harold Wilson to Theresa May. Aside from his reporting duties he’s also a talented author. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter