Isabel Hardman

Why is Theresa May so quiet in the EU referendum debate?

Why is Theresa May so quiet in the EU referendum debate?
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Some ministers are in full-on campaign mode in the EU referendum, even as the normal business of Westminster continues. David Cameron continues to make visits around the country to make his case for Britain remaining in the European Union, while pro-Brexit ministers seem to be constantly giving speeches, interviews and penning angry op-eds about the paucity of the deal that the Prime Minister brought back from Europe. But one question that MPs have been asking increasingly over the past week or so is where on earth is Theresa May? The Home Secretary was one of the biggest catches for the ‘Remain’ side, particularly following her speech to the Tory conference last autumn, and yet she hasn’t operated at anything like the same volume as her other pro-Remain colleagues such as Nicky Morgan.

The reason, as I explain here, is that the Home Secretary is taking a step back from the current scrapping between Tories over Europe before she makes her own intervention in the debate. There is enough blue-on-blue action over Europe, and every comment from one side or the other is taken up as a fight between Tories over tactics, rather than a debate about policies.

Indeed, those around the Prime Minister feel some exasperation that the Outers are getting quite so upset at every intervention, as though the In campaign was only going to mount a low-key, polite offensive against the Leave bunch in order to win the referendum. There is a certain amount of over-reacting going on, but Cameron does still need to be careful that he doesn’t overly provoke his party. In the meantime, though, Theresa May will be staying quiet until the scrapping calms down.