It was all going so well. Theresa May arrived at the position of prime minister at a time when the UK was febrile and frustrated. Brexit had felled David Cameron, the official opposition was in disarray and at one particularly unpleasant moment we faced the prospect of Andrea Leadsom becoming our prime minister.
Panic over though, as Tory candidates obligingly or inadvertently fell on their swords, Theresa May stepped forth to introduce herself as the strong and stable captain of our ship that had been cast adrift.
Months past, Captain May and her two first mates (and trusted advisors), Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, hunkered down to work, promising stability at a time of unrest, delivering the Brexit that people asked for (I’m not sure either) and an end to “playing politics”. The comfort of it all. We settled down, safe in the knowledge that she was simply too dull to upset us any further.
Alas, upset us she did. Vows to not call an early general election were tossed aside, necessitated by those pesky opposition parties annoying her. Whilst this didn’t go down well with the vote weary public, the polls suggested we still preferred the sobriety of May over the alternative.
Despite this, the past week has been a struggle for the leader of the Conservative party - with U-turns, fluffed lines and flustered meetings with the press, May’s message is getting muffled.
This all started with an unpopular manifesto pledge to get people to pay for their own social care and was followed by a seemingly innocuous interview with Jeremy Hunt, in which he said the party had been “completely explicit” that the idea of a cap on how much one individual could be asked to pay had been dropped.
Herein lies the crux of Theresa May’s current malady. Whilst May, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill have been happily steering the ship from the bridge, many senior Tory MPs have been left out on the deck. This was all well and good when strong and stable was a credible mantra, but as soon as the seas got rough, MPs like Jeremy Hunt were struggling to know what exactly the party lines were.
The ensuing storm (media this time) has overtaken the narrative of the general election. Strong and stable became weak and wobbly, Theresa May looked irritated and flustered when accused of dishonesty and some polls now have the Tories on just a six-point lead over the Labour party.
With talk of rifts being publicly dismissed as “tittle tattle” by top Tories, you can be sure that there is furious bile being spat behind closed doors. Lynton Crosby, the political strategist who assisted David Cameron’s election victory, is said to be taking a firmer grip on the campaign, as the Tories attempt to relaunch and regroup.
The exclusivity of Theresa May’s inner circle has led to key messages not getting through to key Tories. Consequently, by the time these messages are reaching the public, they are clunky, incomprehensible and unpopular.
Whilst in all likelihood Theresa May will be returned as prime minister on June 9th, if she is unable to communicate effectively with the senior Conservatives she will rely on when navigating difficult waters, she may find her victory a Pyrrhic one.
This article was written by Gerard Cockburn, Account Executive at MPC.