What on earth happened to the shy, retiring, awkward, Theresa May? Was this a transformation or has the confident, slightly humorous one always been lurking there but has never been given a voice? I suspect the latter. I was in Number 10 a few weeks ago and met her for the first time. I was rather shocked. I had never had any great desire to say hello as I had heard such horror stories about her legendary froideur. Well, on that day it didn’t exist. Charm, wit and a few jokes. She even liked my glasses. Happy, confident and rather good fun at a time when her world was falling apart.
A couple of evenings later I shared an enjoyable train journey with Nick Timothy. I told him of my surprise. ‘Ah yes. She is a much misunderstood woman’.
Some of you may think that I was just star struck. But I am a bit long in the tooth for that having known every Prime Minister since Macmillan. I have a theory that at last she is happy in her own skin. She has put up with such vicious abuse, personal attacks from the mad and the bad, had more farewells than Frank Sinatra and been written off more than a Richard Hammond car, that I bet she just said to herself, ‘what do I have to prove, what have I got to lose?’ And it worked. The weird thing in politics is that honesty tends to work better than pretending to be something that you are not. But most important of all she has finally found her voice in a speechwriter that actually gets her, a lad called Keelan Carr who used to advise her on Scottish affairs. Well, keep the boy, fill his pockets with gold. He is her finest asset.
It’s strange, isn’t it, how conference can make or break reputations. Boris was all bluster and no beef. He showed such great promise to his camp followers. Such high expectations, such cynicism, such ambition. But at the end of the day Boris trying to be Prime Ministerial is like Roger Rabbit reading the Gettysburg address. He is down but no means out. He must be hurting. A nation mourns.
And then there was this fellow Dudderidge. No, I’d never heard of him either. He wanted to show how he could put the final nail in Madame’s coffin by writing to Graham Brady, the grandee’s grandee and curry favour with the Boristas. In fact the silly boy was too clever by half and made it clear to the whips that if they gave him a job his letter would never reach the post box. They told him to fuck off. And actually he might as well have. He is finished and will never be forgiven. Best he spends more time with his correspondence.
The real shock was the crashing and burning of Jeremy Hunt. I have always thought of him as a safe pair of hands and a dark horse in a leadership election. Well, no longer. The Foreign Office now see him as a disaster, which is a shame. The most sensible action for him to take is just apologise for being so crass. The EU may be a pain but they don’t imprison, torture and kill. And Donald Tusk was the youth leader of Solidarity in 1981. But the Hunt line is even more offensive to common sense than his original remark. Evidently we all misunderstood him. Dear God, give me strength. Who on earth advises him, Pinocchio?
So Hunt, Bozo and Mogg are out of the frame which leaves Javid as a serious contender. But…….under estimate Gove at your peril. He is one of those rare breed of ministers who thinks about things, has ideas and is consummately competent. The war is not over for him. He needs to be her Cromwell with a happier ending than having his head chopped off. I predict that he will either be Prime Minister or edit the TIMES.
The latest wheeze by the carpet biters is to demand that she sets a date for her exit. This is as impertinent as it is stupid. There is no natural successor and she now has the the final stages of Brexit to thrash out. Oh, and remember what happened when Tony Blair tried this tactic. The brutal reality is that she will remain as long as the opinion polls shows that she is the only person to beat Corbyn. A friend of mine has a bet in the Savile Club wager book that she will fight the next election. I thought he was mad. But he might just prove to be right after all. This is going to be a very long game. I think I will buy stocks in Gove.
Yet my deepest sympathy goes to Geoffrey Cox. He will now be the Adonis of the rubber chicken circuit and in demand. It’s bad enough meeting the grass roots at conference, now the poor devil will have this joy all year round. Life can be so cruel.