By Tom Mitchell
Theresa May is a lousy politician, and an even lousier Prime Minister. The coughing was unfortunately timed, but her conference speech was emblematic of a politician who is neither likeable nor effective, and who relies solely on excruciating soundbites to disguise how bereft of ideas she is.
But you don’t have to be a fan of May to argue that she should stay on. Having voted Remain, she has done a reasonable job of appealing to those who argued in favour of leaving the EU, with Will Walden, former communications director for Boris Johnson, noting that the transition was “seamless”. Few Conservatives are able to satisfy (although perhaps not appeal to) both sides of an argument that almost exactly split voters down the middle. Her departure would likely thrust an ardent Brexiteer into No. 10, and using Boris Johnson’s “go whistle” attitude to negotiating as a template, it is clear that this would not be in the national interest.
Separately, despite continuing to fetishise Johnson, May carrying on would also be in the Conservative Party’s interest. They are a party who can range from being avidly free-market to shamelessly protectionist on economic affairs, from international to conservatively parochial on their world-view, and can be either liberal or conservative socially. The suggestions to promote Ruth Davidson or Jacob Rees-Mogg, at either extreme of this spectrum, point to a crisis of identity for them. May, with her blatant deficiencies, is ideal for a party whose issues are far less superficial than having a poor leader. She is the scapegoat the Conservatives need.
It is a bleak reflection of the state of British politics that May is, despite her myriad flaws, the best person for the job.
Photograph: Number 10 via Flickr