Theresa May is not only a liar, but a coward. Let’s remind ourselves of some of the ‘achievements’ of her government recently. Firstly, after six long months of patriotic flag waving she finally cobbled together a Brexit plan, showing that the three tory Brexiters, two of whom are part of Mays cabinet, utterly failed to come up with a post Brexit plan before the UK decided to vote Leave. Secondly, it emerges that the ‘plan’ is not so much of a plan at all, but rather a series of empty demands that basically constitute threat to the EU of ‘cave in to our ridiculous demands, or we will self-detruct our own economy’. Thirdly, days after setting the ball rolling on Brexit Theresa May calls a general election, presumably so people will judge her on her empty sloganeering in 2017 rather than her handling of the Brexit process in 2020.
Presumably then, you would think that Theresa May would have quite a lot to say for herself when it comes to talking to Jeremy Corbyn and the other candidates. We will never actually know if this is the case however, because even in spite of Jeremy Corbyn rightfully going back on his commitment to not taking part in any debates without May also being there, Theresa May has repeatedly refused to stand up and talk to her rivals in a debate setting. Instead, in the BBC General Election Debate she has chosen home secretary. Amber Rudd, to get up and do her arguing for her. When Confronted by Journalists today about why she was refusing to appear May did a force crackpot laugh before going on to explain that it is somehow Jeremy Corbyn who is at fault for wanting to appear on the telly quite often: as if putting themselves and their views out there for the public to analyse is some deeply dishonest thing for political leaders to do. May then finished by saying that Corbyn should be paying more attention to the Brexit negotiations. There are so many things wrong with this response though that it’s frankly laughable.
Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, If Theresa May was so concerned about the importance of Brexit negotiations, why on earth did she call this self-serving snap election in the first place? How is it even possible for her to think that the public are thick enough to buy her excuse that the Brexit negotiations are so suddenly incredibly important to her, when she was the one who decided to put the Brexit negotiations on hold for two months to do this election while she thought she had an unassailable lead in the polls?
In what way does setting the clock ticking on the most complex and risky set of negotiations in a long time, and then calling a two month holiday in order to conduct a completely opportunistic snap election, demonstrate anything other than the contempt for a serious situation that she is accusing Jeremy Corbyn of? Besides this is an extremely odd statement for Theresa May to make as leader of the Tory’s. The only way to Interpret Mays response in a way that doesn’t make her look like a massive hypocrite is that she actually thinks Jeremy Corbyn is going to become PM, otherwise why would he need to concentrate on refining his negotiating stance, instead of reaching out to members of the public?
Second, if the idea of appearing before and presenting your ideas to the public in the form of a debate is such a laughable concept, why has Theresa May decided to send Amber Rudd to present the Tory’s ideas for her? If the whole concept of appearing on TV is so contemptible, then why doesn’t she just empty chair the Conservatives, considering it is clearly such a waste of time to participate in televised debates? This may seem petty, but this halfway solution is yet another example of directionless leadership. She decided not to go, then instead of admit she was wrong and actually turn up, she is sending one of her underlings to act as her human bullet shield. She is to cowardly to appear herself because she knows she would get eviscerated, but she’s too directionless to stick by her decision so she is sending out Amber Rudd to take all the criticism on her behalf.
The Forced Laugh
There is a lot you can tell from a forced laugh. Perhaps Theresa May’s image consultants have told her to try and lighten up a bit because her tendency to glare menacingly at political opponents and make disgusted faces is putting people off? We all remember that bonkers head back, open mouth fake laugh that she did at PMQ’s. When she attempts to laugh her persona goes from snarky to absolutely deranged, so lightening up hardly seems to be the best approach.
Yet both this forced laugh approach and her passive aggressive nature of speaking whenever she says anything serious, is perhaps the best indication of why she won’t do the TV debates. Anyone who has seen any of Mays performances at PMQs will know that she is an incredibly weak public speaker who relies almost entirely on the tactic of regurgitating pre written answers and snide personal attacks. As todays encounter with the journalist demonstrated, she is clearly absolutely hopeless when she has to think on her feet and has been outwitted by Jeremy Corbyn countless times. In 2015, David Cameron famously wimped out of having a Scottish Independence Debate with Alex Salmond, but he wasn’t cowardly enough to evade the 2015 election debates completely. Theresa May knows that she is even more pitifully inept in an unscripted environment than Cameron was, so the only way she can avoid getting pummelled in the television debates is by refusing to take part.
Something I applaud the broadcasters for in this situation is allowing the debates to go ahead regardless of Mays refusal to participate. Any attempt to allow her to simply boycott the debates entirely would clearly be heavily biased in favour of the Tory’s, as it would be preventing the other parties from criticising her government’s policy in a debate setting. Thus the only unbiased option is to carry on with the debates regardless.