I will openly admit it: I respect Theresa May. While one could produce an extensive list of her character flaws, the last two weeks have shown our beleaguered prime minister to be indefatigable, resilient and tenacious. By most peoples’ reckoning, the Prime Minister suffered two days of hell after unveiling her draft Brexit deal. I have no interest in discussing the finer points of said deal: this has been done so much it has become nauseating. Of course, everybody hates it. The Brexit zealots, Remainers from all parties, Labour’s frontbench with their disingenuous six tests, the DUP, and the SNP. They all hate it. I hate it. This is regardless of it being the best deal the UK could hope for, given the circumstances.
Following the resignation of two cabinet ministers in protest over the deal, May walked into the proverbial lion’s den to face parliament. She cut a solitary figure at the despatch box as a deluge of vitriol descended from all sides, having to wait over an hour before a single positive utterance was made about her plan. During the three-hour ordeal, she stood her ground, showing a level of fortitude uncommon in most human beings. She eschewed anger and remained calm throughout. Fatigued? Yes. Broken? No. Faced with this situation, I would have defenestrated myself long before Jacob Rees-Mogg performed his best rendition of Brutus.
There would be no respite for the Prime Minister: following the grilling in the House of Commons, she faced an equally hostile press. After a meal of beans on toast – apparently even the PM needs to comfort food – and a few hours sleep, she was back at it. In an attempt to sell the world’s most despised deal to the general public, she appeared on an LBC Radio call-in. Unsurprisingly, she was widely pilloried. It would seem, though, that nothing could crack her stoic veneer or rattle her equanimity. This should be of no surprise, here is a woman that is comfortable with uncomfortable silences. Very weird. The Maybot caricature – which always struck me as being rather unkind – would appear to be correct in its analysis that this woman is not human.
To desire the job of Prime Minister, one has to be a masochist. Yet, looking at former PMs Blair and Cameron, there is little doubt that they loved it and clearly adored the spotlight. May, on the other hand, does not appear to garner even a modicum of pleasure from the role. Whether one agrees with her or not, she dutifully goes about her work unencumbered by the planet-sized ego which characterised her aforementioned predecessors.
One would imagine that history will not be kind to Theresa May, and rightly so, considering that the country appears to be on the brink of a calamitous exit from the EU, something which the Prime Minister ultimately has to take responsibility for. Yet, throughout the process, while facing bombardment from all sides, she has refused to abandon her vision. This has taken both courage and conviction. Through sheer force of will in the face of what is clearly an impossible situation, she might just get a deal. I would never vote for her, but I cannot help but respect her.
Image Credit: Dan Kitwood, Getty Images.