Theresa May is being hailed as the Conservative Party’s new Margaret Thatcher. To which I would reply: “Bunkum and balderdash”.
These two women, both admirable politicians, are, if I may drag out the oldest cliche in the book, like chalk and cheese.
Thatcher was a raucous operator, thumping the table, brandishing her handbag and, quite frankly, scaring the wits out of her opponents, usually the flint-faced Eurocrat grandees. It was a style that suited her well and paid off.
May, on the other hand, is no less effective, far more subdued than her illustrious predecessor and not someone, like Thatcher, to indulge in megaphone diplomacy.
A Tory colleague, the veteran Europhile Kenneth Clarke, recently described May as “a bloody difficult woman”. That is already beginning to show in the foothills of the Brexit negotiations, which should begin in earnest after the general election. If May is still in charge, the Brussels officials with whom she will be dealing will find her a powerful negotiator who will stand no nonsense. They thought she would be an easy touch, someone who would surrender to their ludicrous demands as the price of the UK’s departure from the EU. They are now discovering, to their consternation, that May is no pushover and will be as tough, if not a tougher nut to crack than Thatcher. David Cameron made little or no impact on the Brussels bosses, although he claimed to have done so. But May will not easily let them off the hook.
- Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, is being ill-served by his deputy, Tom Watson. You don’t win elections by painting lurid pictures of your opponents riding high with a three-figure majority in the new parliament. Watson, no doubt, will be saying he is a realist, but during election campaigns, you are supposed to inspire your activists to greater things rather than imply - as some would see it - that it is all a lost cause.
Corbyn, if I may say so, is conducting an impeccable campaign, telling supporters there is still time to destroy the Tories’ present opinion-poll lead. He is at least preaching hope.