I think it would be fair to say that when Theresa May called a snap election just a few short months ago, she never would have imagined this was where she would find herself nine days after polling day. Her majority destroyed, she stands as the sole figurehead of a government that is crumbling to pieces around her – and when she fought the General Election by portraying herself as central to the party, it’s now only a matter of time until she steps down.
The choice on how her leadership will conclude is, however, still in her hands. Delay much longer, though, and it is clear that her hand will be forced. Plummeting approval ratings and the instability of the government are a toxic combination, and May is now a toxic leader for the Conservative party. They will seek to disassociate themselves before she does any further damage. If she wants to preserve what little dignity she has left, she simply must accept her fate and step aside.
It frustrates me when people say that as a feminist, I shouldn’t be pushing for May’s resignation so soon after she took the helm. Listen; when she emerged victorious from the undignified Tory leadership campaign, I was pleased. I sat down with my daughters and watched her accession speech, thrilled to be able to show them that in 21st Century Britain, women could rise to the top and lead our country forward. But May has shown nothing of the leadership I wanted them to see. She has consistently and tenaciously put herself and the Conservatives ahead of the country’s best interests. I will defend her (and all other female politicians) against any and all misogyny, but being a woman doesn’t make you immune to criticism when it’s deserved – and in May’s case, it is most certainly deserved!
From the moment she called the election, the astounding height of her unsuitability for the role of Prime Minister has rapidly become apparent. Perhaps she sealed her fate when, after proclaiming so firmly that she would not call a snap election, she found herself so far ahead in the polls that she could resist the temptation to secure a further five years in power no longer. That first crack widened and was ruthlessly exposed by her opponents, and against all the odds, it became clear that this self-serving election would in fact prove to be a case of complete and historical political suicide. June 9th found May a fatally wounded politician. Mocked and derided by the public and media alike – the media who had until now been her staunchest allies – she found herself isolated, the focus for all criticism from both outside and within her party.
Fast forward nine days, and the terrible events of Grenfell Tower have thrown into sharper relief how detached May truly is from the public she professes to lead. The image of the Prime Minister hidden away and shielded from the grieving residents was a potent and damning illustration of the gulf between the leader and the electorate that first emerged when she refused to face the debates during the election campaign. Her campaign was studiously managed to evade real, genuine voters as much as possible, and whenever she was questioned, it was obvious to even her own party that she cared very little for the human truths of the impact her policies would have. Her slow and detached reaction to this week’s tragedy will, in the future, be seen as the moment when she lost any hope of clinging onto the power she seems determined to sacrifice so very much for.
It is time to go, Mrs May. If I were your advisor, I would tell you to take a deep breath, acknowledge the truth of the situation and come out to face the public. Tell us you recognise that you cannot be the leader our country so desperately needs. Tell us that you both acknowledge and respect the results of the election that didn’t give you the mandate you demanded. Tell us you want nothing but the best for the country, and that to that end, you will gladly step aside and relinquish leadership to someone willing to reach out to the electorate, to hold their hands instead of Trump’s and lead us towards a better future.
But we know she won’t do that. If one thing is clear after the way things have unfolded since 10pm on June 8th, it is that Theresa May will do anything to stay in charge of the country. Her authority is slipping through her grasping fingertips, though, and I suspect that within weeks we will bear witness to the undignified sight of our Prime Minister being unceremoniously kicked out of Downing Street by the back door, to slink away into the annals of history where she will be remembered for the most astounding act of political self-annihilation this country has ever seen.