- Photo by Andrew Parsons – Pool/Getty Images
LONDON – The reluctance to pin any blame on Prime Minister Theresa May for last week’s shock election result has been a striking theme among senior Conservative Party figures in recent days.
Even May herself – whose decision it was to hold an early general election – is so far yet to publicly accept responsibility for the Tories losing their parliamentary majority, despite having led Labour by up to 20% in opinion polls just weeks before the vote.
The PM is set to meet with the Conservative Party’s 1992 committee on Monday to discuss what exactly went wrong on Thursday night.
There is a clear feeling among commentators, pollsters, and even a number of May’s own MPs that her presidential-style election campaign was one of the worst of any British political party since the dawn of the 20th century.
“We didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we shot ourselves in the head,” Tory MP Nigel Evans told the BBC on Friday.
Two in three Conservative Party members believed May should resign following the humiliation of Thursday night, according to a poll posted on the Conservative Home website.
Yet, despite the dismay of the parliamentary Conservative Party and party membership with May’s performance, the prime minister remains in place at 10 Downing Street, seemingly turning a blind eye to the blame that lies at her door.
For May, it’s business as usual
May has been accused of avoiding a number of things over the past few weeks – journalists, TV debates, and voters, to name a few. Now you can add responsibility to that list.
- Reuters / Toby Melville
Since Thursday, the prime minister’s top advisers Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill resigned from their positions. They came in for scathing criticism for the role they played in shaping the party’s manifesto and May’s campaign.
Conservative MPs have long been suspicious of the influence unelected Hill and Timothy had on May both as prime minister and in her previous role as Home Secretary. But even the pair’s most fierce critics will have been taken aback by how much blame was dumped on their shoulders over the weekend.
Meanwhile, May stood outside Number 10 on Friday morning declaring “let’s get to work” in a bizarrely-triumphant speech. It was more befitting of a landslide victory than a spectacular miscalculation.
But now even with Hill and Timothy exiled from Downing Street, May continues to whistle away in Number 10. The finger of blame is pointing at anyone and everyone but the PM.
This morning it was Brexit Secretary David Davis’ turn to take some of the blame. He admitted to BBC Radio 4 that he is one of the people close to May who urged her to hold a snap election.
On Sunday European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was the latest to be dragged into the election post-mortem.
The EU’s most senior official was someone else who urged May to hold an election in order to strengthen her mandate ahead of Brexit talks, reports leaked to the Observer published yesterday morning claimed.
Then, just a few hours later, it was the parliamentary Conservative Party that was scolded by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, for demanding May face consequences for the disastrous election result rather than get behind her.
“Folks we need to calm down and get behind the prime minister,” Johnson, the current odds-on favourite to replace May if she is ousted, told Tory MPs in a group WhatsApp message. One can only wonder how this message was leaked to the press.
- Chris J Ratcliffe / Getty
Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Michael Gove, the newly appointed Environment Secretary, also rallied behind the Tory leader on Monday morning.
This is despite most pundits agreeing that May will cease to be prime minister before the New Year. Conservative MPs Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan both predicted over the weekend that the PM will be replaced by the end of this summer.
But the way in which May has so far avoided accepting responsibility for Thursday’s calamity has been one of the most striking aspects of the immediate fallout of the general election.
The so-called “bloody difficult woman” is digging her heels in.