Clearly the Conservative Party’s target in the election is not policy but personality. They believe, with real justification that Jeremy Corbyn is a weakness for the Labour Party. Whether that is the product of a Tory press, internal treachery by Blarites or inherent failings in the man is beside the point there is a popular perception that he is not a good leader.
By contrast they portray Mrs May as a strong and stable leader, indeed very much as they portrayed David Cameron as a strong and stable leader. It is certainly true they look and sound the part. They always have mastery of their brief, they handle the media well, they sound authoritative and convincing.
If one steps back a bit however, and look at what they achieve, not what they say, things look rather different. David Cameron was clear about leading the country into bombing Syria, but did not manage to actually do it. He was clear about wanting to preserve the Union but came within a hair’s beadth of breaking it up. Worst of all he professed a commitment to Europe leading us into a ballot which took us out.
Mrs May lead from behind on the issue of Europe, claiming to be in favour but not so in favour as to alienate irrevocably the Brexit camp within her party. Whilst at the Home Office she led the Prison system to the point of collapse and has left the police demoralised and fractious.
She has always provided strong and stable leadership in relation to immigration. When she says she is going to reduce the numbed to tens of thousands she sounds authoritative she sounds as if she is going to do it. The problem is reality does not conform to her strong and stable rhetoric.
On taking up her position she provided strong and clear leadership about the folly of an early election. Stability was what was needed. It is claimed, with some justification in my view that she has tried to lead the party in a new direction. Again her rhetoric is good and she genuinely seems to understand some of the issues that an increasingly weakly regulated free market create. Her attempts at real change however are struggling. What sounded like genuinely radical proposals on workers representation on board’s has been watered down dramatically in the green paper.
The strong and stable reason for not having an election seem to have evaporated in the heat of perceived electoral opportunity. So the fixed term parliaments set in law by her predecessor, no doubt to ensure strong and stable government, has been cast aside.
There is no doubt that recent Tory leaders have looked and sounded like strong and stable leaders, the issue is what have they delivered and where they have taken us. It does make one wonder if someone who does not look like a strong and stable leader might actually deliver more.