I had forgotten, until I checked this week, that Theresa May timed the general election of June 2017 in order to have a mandate for the Brexit negotiations. They began ten days after the nation voted. She conveyed no sense, at the time, of how the election result had changed her situation. In her beginning is her end. Political leadership requires imagination. She has never displayed any.
Why, for example, did she fly to Strasbourg on Monday night? She made the same mistake in December 2017 when she took a dawn flight to Brussels after making a hash of the Irish problem. The point of dramatically winging your way out of the country is to be seen to win something. Instead, Mrs May is the spurned suppliant. She seems to have been guided by the satirical rhyme about Neville Chamberlain in the Munich epoch: ‘If at first you don’t concede, fly, fly, fly again.’ Why did she go and accept yet another unwelcome kiss from Jean-Claude Juncker unless she knew that she would receive something persuasive for her backbenchers by doing so? And why did she deploy the legal authority of her attorney general? She must have known he would be bound — if he wished to retain professional respect — to admit to parliament that her tweak to the deal means so little that ‘the legal risk remains unchanged’. She was not in the chamber when Geoffrey Cox sealed the deal’s fate. She had arranged the choreography, but then found she could not dance.
This article is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, which appears in the forthcoming issue of the magazine, out tomorrow