Let’s be honest, Theresa May is far from an inspirational public speaker. Unnervingly stilted and forever crippled by an unmistakable undercurrent of disingenuity, she doesn’t so much kindle the fires of hope within your being, more gradually drowns your helpless soul under an ever rising tide of apathy.
Still, for better or for worse (spoilers: the latter) she is indeed our Prime Minster and, ostensibly, our leader on the world stage. So it was to the consternation of many to see her cutting a decidedly isolated figure amongst EU leaders at the recent summit in Salzburg.
It was almost as though we’d done something to piss them off.
Everyone saw it. The nation and indeed the world as a whole looked on aghast as Britain, once a major influence within the European Parliament, reduced to a similar role to that of a evolution textbook in Alabama.
The howls of indignation from the usual suspects of hard Brexit mouthpieces were as excruciatingly illogical as they were predictable. How dare they treat our Prime Minister this way – all the while conveniently side-stepping the fact that they’d spent the past two years accusing May of being a Remain saboteur who was desperate to sell out the nation to her EU masters. Though such transient morality should hardly be a surprise when it comes from those that place feelings firmly ahead of facts – feelings can change in an instant, facts tend to be more rigid.
Breathtaking hypocrisy aside, it seemed like an apparent eternity of ritual humiliation had taken its toll on poor Mrs May. As if being harangued at home by those who wish to replace her with a bumbling yet sinister Etonian new potato wasn’t bad enough, her cherished Chequers proposal (I’ll stop short of calling it a coherent plan) had suffered an inevitable rejection on account of it being entirely unworkable.
An understandable quibble perhaps, but it certainly proved to be the straw that broke Theresa’s back. So much so that, upon her arrival back on our shores, she felt compelled to take to the stage and deliver an unexpected statement – albeit after power issues at Number 10 caused a delay in a not at all metaphorical blooper brought about by sheer happenstance.
What happened next had to be seen to be believed – and even then it’s likely to mistake it for some sort of horrendous, narcotic induced hallucination.
It really was a sight to behold – almost a performance piece of denialism straight out of the uncanny valley. It’s fair to say that there was somewhat more vigour in this speech than the usual flat-line; as if the recent rebuff had finally ignited a flicker of emotion within the first replicant to ever hold high government office. However actually managing to win the attention of your audience does come with the odd potential pitfall – they’ll actually be listening to the words you’re saying.
The delivery may have been marginally more forthright, but the content was ultimately the same formulaic, heavily rehearsed piffle that we’ve heard a billion times before; yet here she was, repeating her incredibly dubious dogma as though the added semblance of gusto will somehow drag it kicking and screaming into the realms of plausible reality. Unfortunately, as our self imposed deadline grows ever closer with time fast trickling away, trotting out unfounded assertions and attempting to sling the burden of culpability over to the EU’s side of the court isn’t terribly useful – unless your objective is to look like a demented fantasist and crash your own national currency.
Granted not everyone looked upon it as an embarrassing failure – the Daily Express referred to it as her “finest hour”, perhaps unwittingly offering a tacit admission as to how low the bar of acceptability has really sunk when it comes to May’s time in office. The Sun also offered us this typically ludicrous front page, which clearly won’t be looked back upon in years to come as the very apex of nationalistic stupidity.
As for myself, well it left me feeling rather despondent. Perhaps I should be used to such a sensation by now but we really are approaching the end game. Seeing our nation’s attempts at international diplomacy still marooned in the jingoistic sloganeering stage is just further confirmation that absolutely no progress has been made since the UK voted to leave. It’s become almost immaterial as to whether the lazy attempts at PR wash with the public anymore, it’s clear by this point it’s all May and her government really have – so that’s all we’re ever going to get.
It’s this state of perpetual impasse that reveals the inherent irony which has plagued Brexit from the very beginning. While initially heralded as a bid to “take back control”, achieve true independence and show the world what we as a nation are capable of, in actuality it’s been a sorry procession of blunders, eternally undermined by the lack of any clear objective; all the while maintaining a stubborn insistence that the endless cavalcade of calamity is somebody else’s fault – namely the European Union.
Which leads onto perhaps the most delicious irony of all. Hidden away amongst the more familiar soundbites in May’s speech was a minor yet oh so telling new addition – frustration that the EU haven’t provided a counter proposal to soothe the headaches exclusive to the United Kingdom.
For all Theresa’s attempts at posturing and playing hardball, it’ll all be for nought. The only thing Donald Tusk will see is a desperate British Prime Minister, waiting in vain for the EU to solve a Brexit conundrum entirely of the UK’s own making.Follow @grahamlithgow