"Utterly devoid of charisma and presence"

What is Theresa May's Legacy? We asked you what you thought

& Ethan Shone 7th June 2019

Theresa May, prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, former home secretary, awkward dancer, bloody difficult woman and wheatfield botherer has handed in her notice. The reverend’s daughter is set to leave Downing Street in July and leave the door open for the next Tory cream of the crap Eton mess to drunkenly take the helm of the good ship Government.

Her teary resignation was as close to a display of human emotion that any Tory has ever achieved and should be commended in the same way you’d commend a cat that responds to its name, with mild surprise and the knowledge that the heartless fucker wouldn’t care if you died. But despite her wishes, that moist moment of emotion might not be what she is remembered for. We asked you what you thought Theresa Mary May’s legacy would be and, no surprises, you weren’t best pleased.

It’s not like the satirical assassins at Private Eye to be particularly kind to outgoing Prime Ministers, but their latest issue (which, incidentally, features The Overtake’s nomination for the Paul Foot Award) displays a blank front page beneath the words “THE PRIME MINISTER’S LEGACY IN FULL” and then, among all the vast blank space, the note “Er… that’s it”.

The implication clearly is that May has done nothing worth remembering, but if only that were the case. It’s certainly not what you thought.

Let us be clear

Before we get to this celebration of a political life well wasted it’s important (and fair) that we’re honest about who contributed. Of everyone who replied to our questionnaire which we posted on social media, two in five of you were over 50-years old. A surprising statistic we assumed would work in May’s favour, but alas over 70% of all contributors voted Labour in the last general election, indicating that your memories of May may not be merry.

Only 4.6% of you voted for her in the last election but that hardly means she’ll have a strong and stable band of defenders. After all, she weakened a majority government she inherited and faced two votes of no confidence in attempts to oust her.

“Someone who tried but was very shit”

That heading is a quote from one of you lovely people and essentially the nicest thing anyone — including the 1.5% of you that claimed she did a good job (75% very bad, 22% bad, 1.5% okay, 0% very good) — had to say about our prime minister. Other fond assessments include;

And those are the kindest comments. They admit that Brexit and just being prime minister is a difficult situation that anyone would struggle with. Or they could be referring to her penchant for the whitest dancing by anyone ever. They have a touch of sympathy for the position May was in while acknowledging she’s the one who wanted that position. One contributor, perhaps the most forgiving yet pragmatic of us all, simply described her legacy of being shit at her job with the jaded and laconic “as expected”. A swift and honest assessment of the disappointment we’ve come to expect from the political class.

“A big bag of racist shite”

It’s all too easy to forget the racist core the Conservatives somehow manage to cover up with much more general xenophobia and disdain for anyone who doesn’t want a return to colonial Britain but May managed to really highlight the inner hate of the “nasty party” with her hostile environment.

During her time at the Home Office, May was the architect of the hostile environment policy, the aims of which, in May’s own words, was “to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants”. Lovely.

One of you — we’re going to assume a Tory voter — described May as “a person who achieved some good things in domestic politics, but failed on numerous levels to deliver the result of the Brexit referendum”. While she did achieve her goal of creating a hostile environment with her infamous “Go home” vans (don’t worry we’ll get to fucking Brexit soon enough), most of you disagreed that this was a “good thing”, especially as it ultimately led to the Windrush scandal.

Her policies as home secretary, still in effect during her premiership, led to the wrongful arrests of at least 83 British citizens, while her lack of response to the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire (as of Christmas, 100 families still hadn’t been rehomed) definitely informed your opinions of May as useless and cruel.

Your two-word summations included “selfish, heartless”, “Ineffective, unfeeling”, “Unachieving, destructive” and “immoral, inept”. For many of you, May typifies the Conservative elite as a group both out of touch, “born to rule”, morally repugnant and yet somehow entirely unqualified for the positions they covet.

As some of you wrote, “supremely uncaring person, ignoring the effects of her policies on vulnerable people” and “a sadistic thoughtless dogmatic bully” who “should be forgotten as the xenophobic austerity-monger she is”. Speaking of which…

“Margaret Thatcher lite. Just as cold and callous, but better at hiding it behind vacuous rhetoric of false compassion”

Comparisons to the Milk Snatcher, She Who Must Not Be Named was inevitable. May is only our second woman prime minister, a sad fact that may well hinder the future of women in politics. But it wasn’t just the Iron Twat May drew a comparison to.

You dubbed her “the second worst PM, second only to Cameron” who “wouldn’t have been in office under other circumstances and if David Cameron wasn’t such a coward.” The history fan among you went beyond the pig-pesterer and miner-mitherer (mither is a Northern word, back off!) and wrote that May is “the worst PM the UK has ever had, akin to Chamberlain”, a guy who was torn apart by his own party after he replied “it’ll sort itself out” to the question “what should we do about the Third Reich?”

You’ll remember May’s leadership as leaving “the UK more divided, more extreme and less able to come together than when she became PM”. And her general strategy as “paving the way for the Tory party to split and collapse. To make the public realise that the Tory party is the modern equivalent of the Nazis” who is “one of the most pointless PMs this country has ever had the misfortune to have. All she managed was to further divide the nation. Awful person, awful PM.”

But, that isn’t entirely fair. She has done at least one good thing as proved by this contribution:

“The worst prime minister in the history of UK politics, hence why I will now vote Labour.”

Every little helps I suppose.

“…something called Brexit”

Fucking Brexit. As culturally all-consuming as Game of Thrones, only it’s finale will be more depressing, the North/South divide is worse, the characters aren’t as competent and none of them has the good grace to get eaten by a dragon.

Surprisingly, as frequently as Brexit was mentioned — understandable given the shadow it casts over the political landscape — you by far hold May to account more for her incompetence and cruelty than her mishandling of Brexit. Which is actually pretty fair given that she didn’t want to do it in the first place and even the people who voted for it don’t have a clue what they want.

Brexit was often seen as a larger, inescapable aspect of May’s persona and political clumsiness. She hasn’t been “honest about how difficult Brexit would be or what the impacts will be… putting her party first, especially the hard Brexiters, by excluding Remain voters, EU nationals and devolved governments.” And she “increased crime, poverty, deprivation, reduced lifespan and the Brexit debacle” while forcing “Brexit upon the people, continuing the Tory policy of working-class holocaust”.

In short, the entirely wrong woman for the job. Brexit is David Cameron’s legacy that May inherited and worsened. Brexit is a political sideshow distracting from a continued Tory politics of hostility and stupidity that May won’t even see through to the end. Her legacy is a substitute prime minster caught in the web of internal Tory politics, incapable of delivering the results of a referendum that has only served to highlight the moral void and political game playing of herself and the party that wanted her to be leader.

“Lonely figure”

What will her legacy be? This “lonely figure who was happy to be the ‘nasty party’ personified but without anyone caring enough to support her”. You put it best.

“She should be remembered for what she did during her time as prime minister: she let down the people who died at Grenfell and their families, she hated migrants, she was committed only to herself and her party instead of the people of the UK, she promised she wouldn’t call a general election then did it anyway, she was ultimately responsible for the Windrush scandal and has turned a blind eye as cuts by her government pushed millions into poverty.”

& Ethan Shone 7th June 2019