There must have been a time when I thought that I would like to be Prime Minister. I just thank my lucky stars that that particular ambition will remain unfulfilled. (You can relax now, TM, I’m not going to try to get your job.) It must be an almost impossible one. Just think of the last week or two.
The Windrush affair which cost a perfectly competent (and exceptionally nice) Home Secretary her job must have used up an enormous amount of the PM’s time and caused endless stress. Losing her fifth Cabinet Minister, and one so senior, in 12 months has been a nightmare. The Syria strikes caused huge angst, and an enormous amount of Parliamentary time for her, immediately followed by the very demanding Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference. Behind everything lies the continuing negotiations over Brexit, and especially her efforts to find the solution to the Customs Union conundrum. (Incidentally, I will not support any deal which leaves us in any kid of Customs Union preventing us from doing trading deals with the rest of the world.) Holding her Cabinet and her Party together under such circumstances is proving tricky, especially with virtually no Parliamentary majority on which she can rely.
Alongside all of those crises (and I may well have missed some more) is the normal business of Government- the security briefings; the Cabinet Meetings and Committees, the speeches, visits, dinners; that ants nest of activity which is 10 Downing Street (it’s a maze of corridors, staircases, offices and rooms in which I found myself quite lost last week). Then there’s Parliamentary business of all kinds, but of course especially PMQs which would make any normal person go grey, and takes up an enormous amount of Prime Ministerial time in preparation. The good news, I suppose, is that Mr Corbyn is such an appallingly bad opponent that the Magisterial May wipes the floor with him week after week. There are foreign visitors to greet, and constant overseas travel fitted into weekends and Parliamentary Recesses, and a diary jammed from wall to wall. All of that, and she is still being MP for Maidenhead, and a very assiduous one she is as well. So she does my job as well as being Prime Minister!
The prospect of a wipe-out which had been so widely predicted by the left-leaning BBC in last week’s local government elections must have been of deep concern. If- as some predicted- the Tories had lost thousands of seat, dozens of Councils falling to Labour, Mrs May’s position would without doubt have been called into question. She would have survived any such distraction, by blaming ‘mid-term blues’; but just having to justify yourself and fight to save your job when you are simultaneously trying to keep all of the above plates spinning must be an unwanted distraction to say the least. As it was, of course, the hard left incompetence of Labour, and our own strong record in local government meant very little change nationally, with both parties scoring around 40% of the vote. Locally, of course, we held Swindon, which should be a great relief to local people. Not bad for a Party that has gone through as much difficulty as we have over the last twelve months or so.
So I take my hat off to Mrs May. She is steady under fire; tough when needed; a shrewd political judge (leaving aside last year’s unwanted General Election). I would not do her job for all the tea in China; and I salute her for doing it.