You can’t beat a good run. From my 2009 race report on the Maidenhead 10 miler:
The main excitement occurred when we were being directed from the main road onto the rural path through the fields of rapeseed and broccoli. Guess who the marshal was? Yes, I’m convinced it was Theresa May, togged up in smart yellow plastic. As I followed her instructions, I wondered… what sort of metaphor was this? To be herded from the long straight road onto the bumpy farm track by a leading politician…
Finally, seven years later, as Theresa May becomes the new prime minister I know what sort of metaphor it was. Her task is to marshal us along the bumpy farm track of Brexit. The metaphor breaks down if we liken our EU membership to a “long straight road” but let’s not be too literal.
I’m glad it’s Theresa May, and not just because her victory won me £400 at William Hill, to add to the £1,750 they had to cough up after the referendum result. As many commentators have noted, she appears to own the safest pair of hands among the group of coulda-beens, and that’s the quality we need most at the moment.
I want to say, “Let’s give her a chance” but I doubt this will happen. The curse of party politics sends us into different corrals, and these compartments are now further split into Remainers and Leavers, or Brexiteers. On the bright side, maybe it will break down a few barriers. Is it such a bad thing if Labour EU enthusiasts are now finding common cause with the IMF, LibDems and Tory Remainers? And I like the idea of Tory Eurosceptics from the shires chummily swapping squid and walnut wraps for jam sandwiches with revolutionary socialists on the long march to freedom.
I remain glumly loyal to the Guardian, having impulsively signed up for the 50-year deal back in the mid-seventies. It’s no surprise that the Guardian is dutifully doing all it can to interpret May’s elevation as a dark day for the nation, but you can sense that their hearts aren’t in it. Until recently, they were trembling at the nightmare possibility of Boris Johnson occupying the big seat. Anyone but him! When he was shunted out of contention, Michael Gove became the bogeyman. Anyone but him! Then he was rejected by the party and Andrea Leadsom detonated a ton of explosive anxiety. Anyone but her!
There should be widespread jubilation at Guardian Towers, and elsewhere, that Cameron, Osborne, Boris and Gove have been drummed out, especially as the new regime is offering trebles all round for the traditionally neglected. You sense that if this deal had been offered two weeks ago, to have these guys skittled out of the headlines in exchange for Theresa May at Number Ten, they’d have jumped at it. But the dread of Johnson and Gove running the show is now long forgotten.
I wrote that last paragraph before the surprising news arrived that Boris is to be the new Foreign Secretary, and it seems only fair to leave it in. What first seemed like a puzzling decision, now, on reflection, looks like quite a clever manoeuvre. One of the gripes of the Remainers is that “the people who got us into this mess have all run away”. This was never a fair comment. None of them ran away. Johnson was eagerly standing for the top job until his messy assassination at the hands of Gove, who promptly stepped up to take his place. As Gove was pushed aside, another prominent Brexiteer, Andrea Leadsom, was there to take his place. It was like that scene from Jason and the Argonauts with the skeletons who won’t die.
By installing leading Leavers Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox in the three frontline Brexit positions, Theresa May has done what people apparently wanted – to have these guys take full responsibility to deliver on what they promised. Smart move.
Some cynics have observed that being Foreign Secretary ensures Boris Johnson will be out of the country most of the time, but the real benefit for May is the likelihood that the impatient “let’s get on with it” troublemakers on the Tory backbenches will be muted by having their key men beating the path to the Promised Land. LBJ’s comment on Hoover, that “I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in” comes to mind.
As long as Boris keeps his serious hat on — the one he wore post-referendum — I’m confident he’ll do a decent job. In any case, with the trade talks and hard negotiations being managed by the two other members of this Brexit triumvirate, the Foreign Secretary role has been downgraded to a sort of PR position, which Johnson is more suited to than his critics claim. Part-American, part-Turkish, part-English, part-buffoon, part-tycoon, part-everyman, he is more popular and well-known internationally than his critics would have us believe.
I’d better post this quickly, before it all changes again. The 63 episodes of Breaking Bad took 5.5 years to watch in real time, but I consumed the entire box set in less than a month. That’s what the last 21 days have felt like. We’ve just watched 5.5 years of politics in three weeks, and I feel like I did after the final episode of Breaking Bad. Exhilarated and entertained, but exhausted, and keen to get on with normal life again.
Somehow, I don’t think this will happen just yet though I’m much happier and more reassured now, with Theresa May at Number Ten, than I might have done with any other realistic scenario — including the option of a successful Remain vote, leaving Cameron and Osborne in place. It’s a gamble to be sure, but as William Hill will tell you, I’m on a good run.