Quotulatiousness

June 27, 2017

Setting the wrong tone

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Brendan O’Neill on the way Corbyn’s supporters seem to be harking back to Stalinist rhetoric (and belief):

I’m starting to feel a little disturbed by the Stalinist streak in the Corbynista movement. The anti-democratic sense of entitlement behind the cry of “Jeremy Corbyn is the Prime Minister”; the cult of personality growing around Corbyn, which emphasises the man and his goodness far more than his policies; the censorious branding of anyone who doesn’t have the correct Corbynista outlook as “Tory” or “far right”, which comes straight from the Stalinist handbook of denouncing everyone from Trotskyists in the Spanish Civil War to the Hungarian revolutionaries of 1956 as “fascists”; the culture war (cultural revolution?) against those generations that don’t share the worldview of the caring, meme-making, Jez-loving Glasto set…. the largely youthful bourgeoisie that make up the backbone of the Corbynista campaign look set to have a quite chilling, backward impact on political debate and public life, I think.

On the other hand, Dr. Sean Gabb seems to be softening in his attitude to Corbyn, if only due to rising disgust with Theresa May and her “conservative” government:

I’ve been thinking about Jeremy Corbyn. Is he really so awful as we are told? In particular, is he worse on things like immigration and political correctness than the Fake Conservatives have been in practice? They have kept the borders open. They haven’t shut down a single Cultural Marxist project.

For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not a socialist. However, the Conservatives have been in power for years now, and have hardly shown themselves to be friends of anything remotely describable as free enterprise. Privatisation and outsourcing have been a gigantic scam on ordinary people. Vast amounts of the taxpayers’ money are being poured into the hands of crony capitalists.

He is also against dropping bombs all over the Middle East, and is against a renewed Cold War with Russia.

Would be abolish a single civil liberty we currently enjoy? Would he be any worse than the present lot at negotiating our exit from the European Union?

If there were an election tomorrow, I’d have great trouble actually voting Labour. At the same time, I don’t feel I’d regard a Corbyn Government with the same visceral loathing I felt of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Is my brain softening with age? Or are my eyes beginning to open?

I look forward to enlightenment.

June 14, 2017

Both Tories and Labour now depend on homophobes for their support

Filed under: Britain, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The British Tories will survive their drubbing at the polls in last week’s general election thanks to the (negotiated) support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which is the only socially conservative party represented in the commons. The opposition Labour party, however, also has its own group of socially conservative voters upon whom it now depends for many seats in Parliament:

According to the slogans, the Democratic Unionist Parity is a “hate” group because it is “anti-gay, anti-green, anti-women”. That’s to say, they’re opposed to same-sex marriage, abortion, and take a relaxed view of the impending climate apocalypse.

Oh, my.

Even worse, such views have made them Ulster’s most popular political party – albeit that, for us old-timers of the Irish Question, the new DUP can seem frankly a bit milquetoast next to their continuously fulminating, firebreathing founder Ian Paisley. Still, you can understand why the mob has briefly roused itself from Google to take to the streets to protest this week’s designated haters. It’s certainly unfortunate that Theresa May’s grip on power depends on such “anti-gay” and “anti-women” types, isn’t it?

But surely it’s also unfortunate that Jeremy Corbyn’s grip on power in the resurgent Labour Party depends on “anti-gay” and “anti-women” types, too. As Brendan O’Neill points out:

    And all the while we have Labourites like Jeremy Corbyn mixing with Islamist groups that share all these same social views, except in an even more extreme form. Yet the people beating the streets over the DUP say nothing.

That’s true. Theresa May’s more recalcitrant friends in the DUP think gays are godless sodomites who’ll be spending eternity on a roasting spit in hell. Jeremy Corbyn’s more recalcitrant friends are disinclined to wait that long and would rather light them up now – or hurl them off the roof. Hamas, which Mr Corbyn supports, is fairly typical. Sample headline from Newsweek:

    Hamas Executes Prominent Commander After Accusations Of Gay Sex

Doesn’t that make Hamas an anti-gay “hate group”? Well, no. You can bet that 90 per cent of the Google activists in the street protesting Theresa May’s ties to people who think men who love men shouldn’t be permitted to marry are entirely relaxed about Jeremy Corbyn’s ties to people who think men who love men should be burned alive or tossed off tall buildings.

This contradiction exists all over the western world. Today’s progressives cling to the most cobwebbed cliches: Polygamy? That’s something Mormons do in Utah, not Muslims in Canada, France, Britain, Sweden, with the not so tacit connivance of the state welfare systems. First-cousin marriage? That’s something stump-toothed Appalachians do after a bunk-up with Cindy Mae and a jigger of moonshine, not 75 per cent of Pakistani Britons in Bradford, and some 58 per cent throughout the rest of the country.

As for gays, forget Hamas and consider Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters in the United Kingdom: Fifty-two per cent of Muslims told Channel 4 they believed homosexuality should be illegal. Yet Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party has so assiduously courted these “haters” that it’s now electorally dependent on them. Mrs May didn’t court her haters in Ulster, and she’s wound up depending on them merely as an unintended consequence of her own ineptitude on the hustings.

Just to spell it out even more plainly, last year YouGov polled Britons in general on their attitudes to the aforementioned sodomites. Seventeen per cent thought homosexuality was “morally wrong”. If that sounds unnervingly high to you, what’s the reason? Over-sampling in East Belfast? A few rural backwaters not quite up to speed on the new gayer-than-thou Britain? No. In most parts of the country about 15 per cent declined to get with the beat. But in diverse, multicultural London, 29 per cent of the population regarded homosexuality as “morally wrong”.

June 6, 2017

Should the UK general election have been postponed?

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh discusses the (relatively few) calls to postpone the British general election in the wake of the recent terror attacks on British cities:

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce: so said Marx. He was making a joke about the second Emperor Napoleon, and it is still the first thing everybody remembers about the man; it is thus one of the greatest bon mots in the history of journalism. And it is, incidentally, the only law of history devised by Marx that actually works.

We have seen it applied in England by Muslim fanatics this past fortnight. The May 22 attack on Manchester Arena by a radicalized local seems to have involved high technical sophistication, and possibly assistance from an international network of terrorism suppliers. The target was chosen so as to victimize children and to involve a celebrity. (Ariana Grande had been on nobody’s list of people likely to provide a shining global example of civil courage, but here we are!) The killer’s plan was followed through with heartbreaking competence.

Then came the Saturday night attack on London Bridge. I have to be careful in discussing it: seven people are dead and dozens more have suffered life-altering injuries or horror in the rampage. But we are also under an important obligation to keep these things in perspective. Next to the attack on Manchester the London Bridge assault—undertaken with a van, some knives, and fake (!?) suicide vests—looks like a poorly considered, even improvised, terrorist lark. You would say it sounded like something out of a satirical movie parody of Muslim terrorists if Chris Morris hadn’t already made Four Lions.

[…]

Even the “suspension” of political activity by the major parties was more hypothetical than real after the London Bridge incident, with both Prime Minister Theresa May and Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn using the time to needle one another in public statements. May is a former home secretary, and was thus a longtime head of a public security apparatus that seems to have been deaf to warnings about the murderers behind both terror incidents. Corbyn, meanwhile, spent decades as the sort of leftist-bookshop-haunting radical uncle who never has an unkind word for a terrorist or rogue state.

An election campaign is not a good time to stamp out talk about terrorism. And under these circumstances, the argument between the main parties could not fail to be somewhat sharp and personal. But what are the general principles for interrupting or diminishing election campaigning in the face of terror? We can imagine harder cases than this one. And the problem is not quite the same as the mere logistical issue of when an election must be delayed or prolonged because of terrorism. It is, as I say, an issue of etiquette, one that perhaps defies formula.

May 28, 2017

Britain’s general election – “Except for Europe, the contest is between an authoritarian hag and a Fenian scumbag”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Sean Gabb is holding his nose and voting Tory this time around, but he’s not happy about it:

For the avoidance of doubt, I still intend to vote Conservative in this dreadful election. And, if Labour seems to be catching up in the opinion polls, so, I suspect, will enough people to give the Conservatives a decent majority. The general election is a rerun of last year’s Referendum. There is no other consideration that ought to sway anyone who is looking beyond our present circumstances. We vote Conservative. We leave the European Union. We hope and work for a realignment in British politics. Except for this, however, I would be dithering between another vote for UKIP and a spoiled ballot. Except for Europe, the contest is between an authoritarian hag and a Fenian scumbag.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have made their responses to the Manchester Bombings. According to the BBC,

    Theresa May has urged world leaders to do more to combat online extremism, saying the fight against so-called Islamic State is “moving from the battlefield to the internet.”

What she has in mind is outlined in the Conservative Manifesto:

    [W]e will establish a regulatory framework in law to underpin our digital charter and to ensure that digital companies, social media platforms and content providers abide by these principles. We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law. We will also create a power in law for government to introduce an industry-wide levy from social media companies and communication service providers to support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms, just as is already the case with the gambling industry.

If this hardly needs translating into Plain English, I will make the effort. The Conservatives are proposing to censor the Internet. Anyone who, in this country, publishes opinions or alleged facts the authorities dislike will be prosecuted. If these are published abroad, access to the relevant websites will be blocked. Internet companies will be taxed to pay for a Ministry of Propaganda to go beyond anything now provided by the BBC.

We are supposed to think the main targets of censorship will be the radical Moslems. I have no doubt some effort will be made to shut them up. The main targets, however, will be on the nationalist right. These are the ones who will be harried and prosecuted and generally threatened into silence. The only person so far to have lost a job on account of the bombings is the LBC presenter Katie Hopkins. She made a sharp comment on air about the Moslems, and was out. Other than that, we have had a continual spray of propaganda about the Religion of Peace, and how its core texts have nothing to do with suicide bombings or mass-rape or disorder.

In Britain, in Europe, in America, there are powerful interests that are itching to censor the Internet. It is the Internet that has made us cynical. It is the Internet that is giving us the probable truth. It is because of the Internet that the authorities are being held to account. Never let a good atrocity go to waste. Get the people ready for censorship while the bodies are still being reassembled.

May 4, 2017

Ici Londres: Do Theresa May’s opponents seriously prefer Juncker?

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 3 May 2017

May 2, 2017

Britain’s “foregone conclusion” election

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh provides a thumbnail sketch of how Britain got to the point of having an election where the end result is not in great doubt, and the likely losers and big losers:

[British PM Theresa May] has now broken that promise [to serve the full term her party won in 2015], unapologetically. Any half-sane politician’s instinct would tell her that this is an incredibly dangerous thing to have done, and we all know that voters generally loathe unnecessary election activity, or that they pretend to. But the current polls suggest that the British public completely understands why she broke the promise, that they approve of her breaking it, and that they intend to reward her for it. If you follow the UK election as a Canadian, you will hear May talking about “strong and stable” government at about 200 RPM, in exactly the same way Stephen Harper used to. This is no coincidence.

The Labour Party is torn between the old-fashioned socialist militants who made Jeremy Corbyn leader and the respectable corporate types who actually run the party and serve in the House of Commons. The UK has legislation requiring fixed-term parliaments, so May needed the support of Labour in a Commons vote in order to hold an early election. A Parliament can still be dismissed early if there is a vote of no confidence in the government, or if two-thirds of MPs vote to allow it.

Which they did. Corbyn loyalists, uncertain whether their man could survive as leader until 2020, had little reason not to consent to the snap vote. Labourite Corbyn-haters, seeing a chance to dispose of their village-Marxist boss without the dangers of a party coup, went along too. They almost seem to be half-throwing the election, relieved to have some prospect of Labour returning to power before 2025.

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party, seemingly in firm control of Scottish politics and culture, made the Quebec mistake of talking about another independence referendum too soon after losing one. It is a classic shark jump. The people of Scotland seem to have realized that within Scotland, the UK general election will be a referendum on whether they want another divisive, stressful independence struggle right away.

This is not looking like good news for the strident but useless SNP delegation to Westminster. Polls show the Conservatives running a strong second in Scotland, with a chance of taking ten or so seats away from the Nats. Four years ago, I would have fully expected to be typing “Jesus Christ just held a press conference in Clackmannanshire” before I typed the words in that last sentence.

March 20, 2017

Scotland … here they go again

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is eager to get the voters back to the polls for another go-around for Scottish independence (well, not independence-independence, but separate-from-Britain-but-desperate-to-stay-in-the-EU-independence). Stephen Daisley comments on the situation as of Saturday:

The SNP has managed to spin normally sceptical hacks the line that Downing Street was caught on the back foot by Miss Sturgeon’s Monday surprise. It’s true that the timing was news to Number 10 — received wisdom ran that the Nationalist leader would unveil her gambit at the SNP annual spring conference in Aberdeen this afternoon.

But the UK Government has known since 2014, when Miss Sturgeon’s party refused to accept their 55% to 45% defeat, that another push for separation was a matter of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’. Contingency plans have been in place for some time, both to push back a referendum do-over until after Brexit and, if need be, to fight one immediately. The Nationalists are not dealing with that nice Mr Cameron anymore.

And Theresa May’s response to Miss Sturgeon’s demand was more cautiously-worded, better thought through, than the contributions that became common from David Cameron during the first referendum. Crucially, she did not dole out a flat No; instead, she said Not Yet.

[…]

Next week, she will ask MSPs to vote for a Section 30 request, petitioning Westminster for the power to hold a second referendum. There is no mandate for the Scottish Parliament to pursue such a policy. The constitution is reserved to the UK Parliament; a party winning a Holyrood election on a manifesto of surrendering Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent or withdrawing Scottish troops from an international conflict would not be thought to have grounds for pursuing such policies.

Even if this point were conceded — it is done so from first principles by the eager constitutionalists who populate the Scottish academy — there is another flaw in the Nationalists’ argument. True, they came first in the May 2016 election and their manifesto envisioned ‘Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will’ as cause for a re-run of 2014’s ‘once in a generation’ poll. But the Nationalists failed to secure a majority of seats at Holyrood for that proposition, winning only 63 out of 129. Fortunately for the SNP, they have six to spare in the shape of the Scottish Greens, once a conscientious party of the Left but, under Patrick Harvie, a Me-Too faction for the most triangulating government since New Labour.

Every time the Nats get themselves into a jam, every time it looks like they might finally have to stop girning and start governing, up pop the six little anoraks, festooned with CND badges and brimming with good intentions, and they come to the rescue. Time after time, Mr Harvie drags the SNP out of a hole and gets nothing in return except a pat on the head. That isn’t leadership; it’s the political instincts of Lassie.

The Greens’ amening of Miss Sturgeon’s gambit is different from previous acts of handmaidenry because it breaks the party’s pledge to the voters. In the manifesto they were elected on last May, the Greens promised:

‘Citizens should be able to play a direct role in the legislative process: on presenting a petition signed by an appropriate number of voters, citizens should be able to trigger a vote on important issues of devolved responsibility. As we proposed on the one year anniversary of the Independence Referendum, this is the Scottish Greens’ preferred way of deciding to hold a second referendum on Independence. If a new referendum is to happen, it should come about by the will of the people, and not be driven by calculations of party political advantage. In such a referendum the Scottish Greens will campaign for independence.’

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

February 6, 2017

“Compulsive believers … should terrify you”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In the Guardian, Nick Cohen says you shouldn’t be concerned about compulsive liars: it’s the compulsive believers you should worry about:

Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you. They can harm no one, if no one listens to them. Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you. Believers are the liars’ enablers. Their votes give the demagogue his power. Their trust turns the charlatan into the president. Their credulity ensures that the propaganda of half-calculating and half-mad fanatics has the power to change the world.

How you see the believers determines how you fight them and seek to protect liberal society from its enemies. And I don’t just mean how you fight that object of liberal despair and conservative fantasies, the alternately despised and patronised white working class. Compulsive believers are not just rednecks. They include figures as elevated as the British prime minister and her cabinet. Before the EU referendum, a May administration would have responded to the hitherto unthinkable arrival of a US president who threatened Nato and indulged Putin by hugging Britain’s European allies close. But Brexit has thrown Britain’s European alliance into crisis. So English Conservative politicians must crush their doubts and believe with a desperate compulsion that the alleged “pragmatism” of Donald Trump will triumph over his undoubted extremism, a belief that to date has as much basis in fact as creationism.

Mainstream journalists are almost as credulous. After decades of imitating Jeremy Paxman and seizing on the trivial gaffes and small lies of largely harmless politicians, they are unable to cope with the fantastic lies of the new authoritarian movements. When confronted with men who lie so instinctively they believe their lies as they tell them, they can only insist on a fair hearing for the sake of “balance”. Their acceptance signals to the audience the unbelievable is worthy of belief.

[…]

As their old world is engulfed now, the sluggish reflexes and limited minds of too many conservatives compel them to cry out against liberal hypocrisy, as if it were all that mattered. There is more than enough hypocrisy to go round. I must confess to wondering about the sincerity of those who protest against the collective punishment of Trump’s ban on visitors from Muslim countries but remain silent when Arab countries deny all Israeli Jews admission. I too would like to know why there was so little protest when Obama gave Iran funds to spend on the devastation of Syria. But the greatest hypocrisy is always to divert attention from what is staring you in the face today and may be kicking you in the teeth tomorrow.

The temptation to think it a new totalitarianism is too strong for many to resist. Despite readers reaching for Hannah Arendt and George Orwell, strictly speaking, the comparison with fascism and communism isn’t true. When I floated it with the great historian of Nazism, Sir Richard Evans, he almost sighed. It’s not just that there aren’t the death camps and torture chambers, he said. The street violence that brought fascists to power in Italy and Germany and the communists to power in Russia is absent today.

The 21st-century’s model for a strongman is a leader who makes opposition as hard as possible, as Orbán is trying to do in Hungary, but does not actually declare a dictatorship, for not even Putin has done that.

H/T to Guy Herbert for the link.

January 26, 2017

Poor old Jeremy Corbyn’s bad time in the Commons

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Guy Fawkes’ blog on Jeremy Corbyn’s latest terrible outing in the House of Commons:

Karl Marx famously remarked that history repeats itself, “first as tragedy, and then as farce”. He was right. So right in fact that even his own ideological movement would be subject to the same principle. We had the famines, and the massacres, and the icepicks in the skull of the twentieth century: Marxism as tragedy. And now we have the farce, of which there is of course no finer a proponent than Jeremy Corbyn.

In this spirit, the Labour leader decided to come to PMQs today dressed in the most lurid brown suit known to man. One can only imagine the conversation in Holloway Road market:

“Morning Sir, how can we help you?”

“Oh hello there, I was wondering if you had any tailoring in the shade of human excrement? Preferably oversized too, of the sort a Uzbek goat herder would wear at a funeral? You know, a real statement piece?”

“Why you’re in luck Sir”, the merchant would say, his eyes lighting up, “we have this exquisite lounge suit right here, hewn from the very finest turd-brown Soviet polyester sent straight from Vladivostok. It’s going to set you back a grand though I’m afraid. Currency fluctuations post Brexit, you see sir, they really hit us humble artisans hard”.

Having parted with his cash Corbyn marched straight to Parliament no doubt feeling particularly buoyed by his pal Seumas’s six solid questions demanding the PM present a Brexit white paper immediately. But then, no! Disaster struck!

Up popped professional brown nose Chris Philp (formerly of the Remain campaign) to get things underway with a planted question about the need for a “government white paper laying out our vision for a global Britain”. The PM spent a few sentences name-checking other Tory Remainers who had also made such calls before calmly responding: “I can confirm that our plan will be set out in a White Paper published for the House”. This is the point at which more hip leaders would have dropped the mic or said “boom”.

November 30, 2016

“Bush is full of surprises”

Filed under: Britain, Media, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

That’s Kate, not George or W or ¡Jeb!:

Name: Kate Bush.

Age: 58.

Appearance: Rare.

Occupation: Artiste.

This is the Kate Bush, right? That’s right. The art-pop prodigy and now reclusive doyenne.

What has she done? Is it a new tour? It’s a new tour, right? Please can it be a new tour? Nope. It’s a political opinion.

I’d have preferred a new tour, ideally. Yes, but you’ll have to wait.

It’s not fair! And political opinions are so boring! Just about every artist in the world is either leftwing or very leftwing. Not so fast. Bush is full of surprises, remember. And the latest is that she loves Theresa May.

October 10, 2016

British “One Nation Conservatism”

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Sean Gabb on the “choices” available to a theoretical British voter who might still pine for a smaller and less intrusive central government:

The truth is that, since the 1960s, Conservative and Labour Governments have alternated. In this time, with the partial exception of the first Thatcher term – and she did consider banning dildoes in 1983 – the burden of state interference has grown, if with occasional changes of direction. In this time, with the exception of John Major’s second term, the tax burden has stayed about the same as a percentage of gross domestic product. I cannot remember if Roy Jenkins or Gordon Brown managed to balance the budget in any particular year. But I do know that George Osborn never managed it, or tried to manage it, before he was thrown into the street. Whether the politicians promised free markets or intervention, what was delivered has been about the same.

A longer answer is to draw attention to the low quality of political debate in this country. It seems to be assumed that there is a continuum of economic policy that stretches between the low tax corporatism of the Adam Smith Institute (“the libertarian right”) and whatever Jeremy Corbyn means by socialism. So far as Mrs May has rejected the first, she must be drifting towards the second. Leave aside the distinction, already made, between what politicians say and what they do. What the Prime Minister was discussing appears to have been One Nation Conservatism, updated for the present age.

Because it has never had a Karl Marx or a Murray Rothbard, this doctrine lacks a canonic expression. However, it can be loosely summarised in three propositions:

First, our nation is a kind of family. Its members are connected by ties of common history and language, and largely by common descent. We have a claim on our young men to risk their lives in legitimate wars of defence. We have other claims on each other that go beyond the contractual.

Second, the happiness and wealth and power of our nation require a firm respect for property rights and civil rights. It is one of the functions of microeconomic analysis to show how a respect of property rights is to the common benefit. The less doctrinaire forms of libertarianism show the benefit to a nation of leaving people alone in their private lives.

Third, the boundaries between these first two are to be defined and fixed by a respect for the mass of tradition that has come down to us from the middle ages. Tradition is not a changeless thing, and, if there is to be a rebuttable presumption in favour of what is settled, every generation must handle its inheritance with some regard to present convenience.

The weakness of the One Nation Conservatives Margaret Thatcher squashed lay in their misunderstanding of economics. After the 1930s, they had trusted too much in state direction of the economy. But, rightly understood, the doctrine does seem to express what most of us want. If that is what the Prime Minister is now promising to deliver, and if that is what she does in part deliver, I have no reasonable doubt that she and her successors will be in office as far ahead as the mind can track.

July 18, 2016

Britain’s new Prime Minister

Filed under: Britain, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Theresa May has become the second female prime minister in British history after the victory of the Brexit referendum campaign in late June (although she was a Remain-er herself). In The Spectator, Harry Cole indicates what Brits should expect from their new head of government:

There are plenty who have been left bruised by May’s decade and a half at the top of the Conservative party, but even her worst enemies concede that the woman who is to become the next Prime Minister has shown a remarkable durability in high office. She’s the longest-serving Home Secretary in half a century, and has made a success of what’s very often a career-ending job.

A long-retired party grandee recalls May, then newly elected to Parliament, approaching him in 1997 to ask what she must do to succeed. ‘Ignore the little things,’ he replied. It’s advice that her critics reckon she has firmly ignored ever since. When he resigned as a Home Office minister, the eccentric Liberal Democrat Norman Baker described trying to work under May as ‘walking through mud’. There are Conservatives, too, including ones in the cabinet, who accuse May of being a territorial micromanager. But the wrath of her colleagues has only increased her standing with grassroots Tories.

‘She’s a boxer,’ says a Home Office mandarin. ‘She’s got her gloves up all the time. Not much gets through. Always defensive.’ ‘Any special adviser in Whitehall who didn’t make it their business to know exactly what is going on in their department is negligent,’ contends Nick Timothy, a long-term aide and friend. ‘She wants to know what’s going on and wants to have a handle on things.’

[…]

‘As long as I have known her she has always refused to allow herself to be pigeonholed by saying she is in this club or that club or on this wing or that wing of the party,’ says Timothy. ‘It confounds some people, it especially confounds the Left, that you can be so sceptical about the European Court of Human Rights, but you can care so passionately about the rights of the citizen. It confounds them that she thinks immigration needs to be much lower, at the same time as introducing the first legislation of its kind on modern slavery. I don’t think that’s inconsistent, I think that she’s a sound conservative who believes in social justice.’

This is one of the secrets of May’s success. While she may be a defensive boxer with her gloves up, her feet are also moving incredibly quickly. That lack of pinpointing makes it very hard to define her, and thus attack her, though some will always try. ‘We will never ever forget the nasty party comment,’ says one prominent right-winger. ‘No matter how many terrorists she sends back or tough-sounding speeches she gives. She gave a name to our branding problem and it will be hung around our neck for decades by our enemies. It has damaged us as much as the misquoted “no such thing as society”.’ But while she may not be of the traditional right, there is certainly something very traditional about May as a person and as a politician. ‘If you say you are going to do a dinner, you can’t cancel it. She gets enormously annoyed if it looks like she might have to cancel something which has been a commitment she has given,’ says Cunningham. ‘I wouldn’t go as far as old-fashioned, but just a very traditional — do the right thing, you can’t let people down.’ ‘Strong sense of a proper way of doing things,’ echoes a friend.

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