First there was the decision to call the election at all after her repeated insistence that there wouldn't be one. Then came a slew of disastrous policy announcements possibly intended to show her as decisive, but in fact radiating the hubris and arrogance at the heart of the Tory agenda: no assurance of no tax rises; dropping the triple lock on pensions; ending free school meals; and of course the utter confusion of new charges for homecare for older people and the inclusion of property in calculations for eligibility - May's attempts to row back (or clarify as she put it) simply served to illuminate her panic.
Given that the central premise of the Tory campaign, and indeed of the whole purpose of the election, was to supposedly cement this allegedly powerful, charismatic and "strong and stable" leader's authority to speak for The Nation ahead of the Brexit negotiations, due to start a few days after the 8 June vote, it is little surprise her ratings have tumbled, with her party sliding along behind, steadily if not as precipitously as its leader.
|Corbyn is having a good campaign.|
But perhaps the most interesting and most telling things about Theresa May these last week's haven't been the policy muddles and the campaign wobbles, but rather what we have learned about her as a person. And given the almost Erdogan-like elevation of her as the National Leader in the Tory campaign, the contrast between the Image and the Reality has rarely been as nakedly apparent as it now is.
Tory candidates around the country have clearly been instructed to subsume themselves to her: in Batley & Spen, a Tory prospect at the start of the campaign though somewhat unlikely now, their candidate at a hustings last week introduced herself not as the Conservative but as "Theresa May's candidate." Similarly, in the tight Labour-held marginal next door in Dewsbury, the Tory candidate's Freepost leaflet has no mention or photograph of the local candidate but simply pictures of the PM and the injunction to "Vote for Theresa May." These are not at all untypical examples of a strategy founded on the Prime Minister's personality; a strategy that is clearly now sited in an earthquake zone.
|May - posturing at home; ignored abroad.|
First of all, her actions on Brexit have been, frankly, counter-productive. There was the frankly bizarre threat to withdraw co-operation on counter-terrorist intelligence if she didn't get the trade terms she wants with the EU. Next she followed up with a fictitious and hysterical "crisis" over the sovereignty of Gibraltar where she clearly thought it a good idea to let some of her party grandees mutter loudly about going to war with Spain. No friends nor partners nor any influence were won in either debacle.
|A rare occasion - confronted by a real person.|
Her refusal to meet any other party leaders in any of the TV debates - she is sending the ever-irritable Amber Rudd to represent her at the BBC one this week - simply adds to the impression of someone ill at ease with people whose views and lives don't accord with her own. In the difficult days ahead, as we negotiate our future arrangements with Europe, we need a Prime Minister with a rather more balanced mindset, someone who can relate to others and seek a lasting, beneficial deal that works for all sides. We need someone able to venture beyond their hermetically-sealed bubble to accept, deal with and embrace people with different views, needs and outlooks to their own. Both within our divided country and as we forge new relationships overseas, we need Government with a genuine human touch.
We do not need someone who fantasises about being Nelson or Churchill. Especially when she is neither.