The Home Secretary Theresa May has put herself forward as the candidate with experience. She points to her record time in the Home Office as evidence of her competence.
Her supporters claim as a reluctant Remainer she is ideally suited to unify a divided party. She is now also the bookies’ favourite with around 100 Tory MPs supporting her so far, but with many still need to declare their allegiance in the first round. To many, Theresa May might seem the safest bet.
There are however several key reasons why May would be a disaster as Prime Minister, and why her election as Leader would be an insult to the Conservatives, to the country and to the Great British Public.
May’s supporters point to her time in the Home Office as evidence of her competence. However, when we examine her record in closer detail, the prognosis is not great. It is undoubtedly true that Theresa May is the longest-serving Home Secretary since Henry Matthews in 1892. This indeed is regularly trumpeted by her supporters as a great achievement given the position’s legendary capacity for denting reputations.
Her supporters point out, as she has managed to effectively run the Home Office, a department notorious for mucking stuff up, she would therefore be able to run our country in a similarly effective manner. This however is determined on the basic assumption May’s long tenure at the Home Office is due to her effectiveness as a minister, rather than due to her survival skills.
Scratch the surface of May’s Home Office record and things do no look so rosy. If we look at the UK Border Force for example, we see a rather bleak picture. The UK Border Force is in effect the successor to the UK Border Agency, which was closed in 2013 (under Theresa May’s watch) as a result of repeated controversies.
The Border Force has fared little better to its predecessor. As a result of poor resource allocation and adequate planning, gaping holes have been left in the UK’s border security. Maritime patrol aircraft are a vital part of any modern coastal border force, yet the UK’s existing aircraft were scrapped as a result of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review! There was an attempt to ratify this in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, when the Government announced it would order 9 new Maritime Patrol Aircraft. However, as of January of this year these have not yet been purchased, leaving major gaps in Britain’s border protection.
As Home Secretary, May’s ultimate responsibility is to ensure Britain’s borders are secure – and in this regard she has completely failed.
In recent years the Home Secretary has tried to gain support from the ‘Right’ of the Conservative Party by promising to get tough on immigration. Last year in her speech to the Tory Party Conference May highlighted the implications of high migration. She warned of the long-term threat to social cohesion which uncontrolled EU migration would bring. For this she was loudly applauded by the Tory ‘Right’, as someone who is willing to discuss migration.
But when we look at her record we see a Home Secretary who has consistently failed to lower migration. There is a huge difference between what Mrs May promises and what she actually delivers. How can anyone now trust her promise – “Brexit means Brexit.”
During the referendum campaign itself the Home Secretary opened herself up for ridicule by insisting Britain has control of its borders. This was despite the official migration forecasts which predicted 3 million people will be migrating to the UK by 2030. What is even more insulting is the fact this was less than a year after she had warned a packed Conservative conference of the dangers of unrestricted EU migration.
Are we really supposed to believe it was David Cameron’s pitiful renegotiation which changed the Home Secretary’s mind? When the so-called “Eurosceptic” Business Secretary Sajid Javid came out for Remain – citing Cameron’s ‘deal’ – he was rightly attacked for it. The Home Secretary on the other hand managed to minimalize her press exposure and stay out of the spotlight. For all of the recent attention given to the ‘Machiavellian’ manoeuvrings of her leadership rival Michael Gove, it is the Home Secretary who is a veteran of the political dark arts.
Do we really want a Prime Minister who is someone who has deliberately kept a low profile during the most important vote of our lifetimes? Someone who has suggested she was going to back one side or the referendum campaign, and then belatedly support the other! Say what you will about Cameron and Osborne, but at least they stood for what they believed in.
On the battlefield, this would be called cowardice; in Westminster it’s called strategy. How can ministers who put their careers on the line to support Brexit, now accept the leadership of someone who put her career first and foremost? What sort of example is this setting to future generations?
Theresa May’s greatest skill is her ability to duck and dive her way through the perils of the Home Office. Her actual record there is poor. But her supporters seem to assume the mere fact she is still there assumes she must be competent – but the role of Prime Minister is completely different. Can we really assume her skills are directly transferrable to Number 10? The best thing one can say about Theresa May is that she makes the best of a bad job.
Desolate Remainers may now think this is what is needed – but it is not. Brexit is the beginning of a bright new chapter for the United Kingdom, and we need a Prime Minister who embodies this.
The referendum result has made one thing clear. The Great British Public has voted for change not continuity – and to Get Britain Out. For the millions who have voted for Leave, Theresa May’s election as our Prime Minister would be a kick in the teeth and a stab in the back. It would further undermine the Great British Public’s already limited confidence in our political system.
Jayne Adye is the Director of cross-party, grassroots Eurosceptic group Get Britain Out