Where did Theresa May go wrong?

Posted 10 Jun 2017 by Walaa Idris

Theresa May

In my opinion Mrs May made many mistakes. They started six weeks ago when she surprised us with a snap election. The election she fervently denied many, many times will happen any time before 2020. This was a mistake not because she changed her mind, but because of the timing. For someone who painted herself as a straightforward lady, her timing looked a tad opportune. Also, in doing that she conveniently forgot voters neither like nor respect leaders who don’t stick to their guns.

Her second mistake was running a national campaign from Downing Street with only her policy advisers as confidants, and none of the party’s political campaigners including its chief campaigner. Why hire a political strategist yet never listen to them!? If she didn’t like Lynton Crosby, she could have hired someone else. However, Crosby won David Cameron two consecutive elections and made the Tories electable for the first time in almost 20 years. That’s why she should have listen to him despite any differences they have.

Thirdly, Katie Perrior was instrumental in getting Boris Johnson elected Mayor of London twice, letting her go was a huge mistake. If Katie was head of communications at Number 10, the 2017 campaign would have had a different tone and energy, particularly in London where we lost very big on the night.

Her fourth mistake was gagging local associations and forcing them to run campaigns that worked on paper but not on the ground. Not listening to associations, when they are your local eyes and ears, and the ones that understand the issues street by street and ward by ward is both counterproductive and demoralising to those who work and vote for you.

Finally came the straw that broke the camel’s back – the manifesto. While the manifesto itself wasn’t much of a problem, besides being lukewarm and lacklustre. The proposed social care caused a problem. It wasn’t clearly outlined and created a great deal of anguish among a core voting group and a community that already gave a lot to the society. When the PM tried to explain her manifesto pledge, it created even further problems. As it became clear she was the only person who fully understood the policy. So, when others were questioned on it, they gave different responses to hers. This allowed Labour and the others to weaponize that discrepancy and use it to attack the rest of May’s manifesto.

Labour’s sums where all over the place but nobody seemed to care where the promised money is coming from. Nor did they care about garden taxes affecting almost every home owner. Tax rises on corporations, free university education to all, promising to re-nationalise railways, utilities …., and half way through the campaign promising to forgive every student debt were all very popular promises, never mind they weren’t costed. It became obvious that after seven years of wise spending people wanted some freebies.

Simply put, the social care policy and removing the pension triple lock lost Conservatives their core voter and Labour’s lies and empty promises clouded the rest.

So, did we do badly? Absolutely. Is it the end of the road? Absolutely, not. Our limping results are a revelation and an opportunity to turn things around.

Now, more than ever Theresa May has a phenomenal opportunity to change her fortunes. With the right moves, she can come out of this stronger than when she went in. First, she needs to hold her nerve and not show when irritated. She is lucky Article 50 has already been triggered. For the coming two years, Brexit should be her main if not sole focus. The negotiation should and must go on as planned. Bringing home a good deal will refocus everyone.

If she survives after that, then my advice is to listen. She needs to learn to listen not only to her personal advisers, but to everyone, voters, associations, her own MPs, the party machine.

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