The Martyring of Mrs May
I am having an anger management problem. I cannot summon enough of it to impel my arse over to Regent Street and join the crowds demonstrating against that buffoon Donald Trump. He’s spending 36 hours insulting the Prime Minister and cadging a scone off the Queen, and 60 hours in Ayrshire playing golf. What more can be said about his drivelling style and dehumanised priorities than that they are consistent? I know I should be down there with the hoi polloi and the bien pensant, down by the river admiring the blimp overhead. But so foreign has this all become, so otherworldly and depressing, that ennui has paralysed my legs. Yet not my fingers…
As for that Boris, wot a buffoon. I laughed and clapped when he resigned. It was one less weight off this country’s shrinking, sinking reputation. So now he’s out there, lurking in the tangled undergrowth of Brexit, biding his time, judging his rush, waiting to leap upon the wounded Mrs May as she limps towards failure. But he himself is done, peaked, exposed, deflated, all the wind gone. Max Hastings, that old warhorse, took his skin off with a scalpel. “He is a man of remarkable gifts, flawed by an absence of conscience, principle or scruple.” To me he is merely an arse, left only with his own flatulence.
Trump, Boris… these men are poltroons. I do not support our Prime Minister but nor will I insult her. For she defies conventional understanding. She is not hanging on for the fun of it. Christ on a cross! I mean this not as expostulation but as analogy: she has chosen crucifixion. The vicar’s daughter is living her faith.
Her virtues are duty, constancy, endurance, a preparedness to suffer. She did not support Brexit, she will have known that taking it on was a fool’s errand, but she decided anyway that she must support the people’s right to it - or at least the British Right’s asphyxiatingly narrow view of what is a democratic right is or what is meant by Brexit.
However, as an article of faith, in the broader church of both the Tories, Labour, and the country at large, Brexit has become as tortuously disputed as transubstantiation, or worse, papal authority, and as catastrophically disastrous to party and national unity as anything in British history. Brussels is Rome and May Wolsey to the Tories’ Henry VIII. Now she martyrs herself on the cross of Tory disunity and this island’s schism.
She must be sustained by tremendous faith. For a full year, since her disastrous election, her job has been defined not by her ability to succeed but - according to inner convictions of Duty, Fate and what is ‘Ordained’ - by how heroically she could fail. She took on the nastiest job in our modern political history. Churchill’s might have been monumental but it not morally dire. Her premiership will have been, morally and existentially, exquisitely exacting. Such questions! What is Duty? For what must she most account to the British people or her God? What is the Higher Duty to the Nation? Let It shoot Itself because It has a death-wish? Or wrestle with It for the Gun? What a choice: to give up office knowing she fundamentally disagreed with the direction in which the referendum seemed set to drag the country; or allow herself to be lashed all the way to Golgotha in the hope that her sacrifice might buy enough time for common sense to reassert itself and reasonable solutions be found, while blocking the Via Dolorosa against the lunatic Corbyn.
The latter course has been infinitely harder - an act of self-abnegation for which it is hard to find precedent in modern politics and is certainly nothing the glib Cameron or the opportunistic Gove or the ‘Hastings’ Boris would ever have contemplated. What it has done is to expose the brutal absurdity and “squared-circledness” of the Brexit proposition.
Sisyphus was condemned for all eternity; at least May knows she can be crucified just once, then gratefully fall dead on the political ground. Imagine if you will, when that day comes, her feelings as she steps out of Number 10 for the last time. The exhaustion, the welcoming of death, the gratitude to her God that she has endured, until the moment she was dismissed from it, a task whose execution is doomed to failure any which way you look at it.
When the time comes, lay her beside Becket and carry the others, dead or alive, to the block.
No matter her profound and numerous failings, Theresa May has one virtue - a strong sense of duty - unlike most of the scheming bastards that attack her.