A week is a long time in politics
Jim O’Neill says every political career ends in failure, and speculates that some of Theresa May’s cabinet appointments suggest several opportunities for failure already.
With the unexpected, at least to him, departure of David Cameron from No 10, I thought I would revert to my first real job, as a history teacher, to look at what had happened to Prime Ministers since the end of the War. There is a maxim in politics: all careers end in failure. This list looks like it broadly confirms it:
- Clement Attlee 1945–51. 6 years in No 10. Could not sustain a narrow majority after party splits.
- Winston Churchill 1951–55. 4 years. Old age and illness.
- Anthony Eden 1955–57. 2 years. Suez.
- Harold Macmillan 1957–63. 6 years. Illness.
- Alec Douglas-Home 1963–64. 1 year. Incompetence.
- Harold Wilson 1964–70 and 1974–76. 8 years. Illness.
- Ted Heath 1970–74. 4 years. Miners’ strike.
- Jim Callaghan 1976–79. 3 years. Winter of Discontent.
- Margaret Thatcher 1979–90. 11 years. Poll Tax.
- John Major 1990–97. 7 years. Tory disputes over Europe.
- Tony Blair 1997–2007. 10 years. Iraq.
- Gordon Brown 2007–10. 3 years. Recession and banking collapse.
- David Cameron 2010–16. 6 years. Brexit.
- Theresa May 2016–?
So now she has set up her new Cabinet. She had better get it right. On average she has only 6 years in Downing Street. Harold Wilson said “a week is a long time in politics”. So here we go.
Mrs May has shown as comfortable with a stiletto as she is wearing stiletto heels. Out go Osborne, Gove, Morgan, Whittingdale, Letwin, Crabb and Villiers. And in comes the Private Eye Cabinet. I am glad that I have a subscription. The next four years is going to be fun in its pages.
First to be brought on board was multi-millionaire Phillip Hammond who, with the exception of a short time as shadow Chief Secretary over a decade ago, has no experience of the Treasury. So, is this going to be goodbye austerity, hello austerity? We are going to have to wait to see. He says he will make his policy clear at the Autumn Statement. That’s what I like – decisiveness.
And then we have Boris as Foreign Secretary. She is surely having a laugh. Boris has already insulted most of the important foreigners that he will have to work with, including Hillary Clinton and most of the leaders of the European Community. Mind you, Boriswatch should be fun!
Then we have Amber Rudd as Home Secretary. After the insults she heaped on Boris during the Brexit debates, will they even be able to speak to each other at cabinet? David Davies, serial resigner, in the new job of Brexit Secretary. Totally unknown in Europe, he will first have to establish his credentials. Just saying no won’t work, as Margaret Thatcher found.
And as for Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary, he made a mess of being Defence Secretary when he allowed his neocon friends access to the MOD. I can see the vultures gathering around! Other lowlights include Andrea Leadsom at Environment, a woman who does not believe in climate change and supports fracking, Priti Patel at International Development, putting a vampire in charge of the blood bank, and finally leaving Hunt at Health, probably because she could not get anyone else to take it.
All the rest are deckchair shifting, and looking after your pals. So Theresa May has wielded a scythe and brought in the Punch and Judy show. Hang on to the sides folks, the next four years will be a wild ride.