Coffee House

May blossoms

9 March 2013

6:08 PM

9 March 2013

6:08 PM

The question about Theresa May has always been what does she believe? Well, today in the widest-ranging speech of her political career she went a long way to answering that. You can read the speech, delivered at the Conservative Home conference, here.

Several things struck me about the speech. First, on economics May is not a classical liberal or a Lawsonian. Instead, she is more in the Michael Heseltine camp. She made the case for a buy British government procurement programme that strikes a ‘better balance between short-term value for the taxpayer and long-term benefits to the economy’.


But, in other areas, May is prepared to be more free market than the Tory party has been to date. She said the party should have an open mind about companies making a profit out of delivering public services.

What I suspect, though, will grab the headlines are her comments about the European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights. She said,

‘we have to ask ourselves, to what end are we signatories to the Convention? Are we really limiting human rights abuses in other countries? I’m sceptical. But are we restricting our ability to act in the national interest? Are we conceding that our own Supreme Court is not supreme? I believe we are.’

Now, it is pretty clear from this where May would like to go, as we said on Coffee House this time last week following the Mail on Sunday splash, and she herself declared ‘I want to be clear that all options – including leaving the Convention altogether – should be on the table.’ Indeed, one of the things that is most striking about her comments is that she takes on directly the arguments adduced by Dominic Grieve, Ken Clarke and the Foreign Office for staying in.

May’s decision to make such a wide ranging speech puts her into a different bracket of politician. One can now begin to see where a May-led Tory party would go. Now, May is too loyal—and too cautious—a politician to challenge a sitting leader—and the speech went out of its way to praise Cameron and contrast his qualities with Miliband’s. But if a vacancy arises, it is now clear that May will be a contender.

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  • eyeswideopen

    Theresa May is tacking to the right into the currents normally favoured by UKIP. She is subtly trying to wind in some of the lost support. She may well succeed. However she is far too strident to have general appeal.

  • JanCosgrove1945

    Those advocating repeal of the HRA 1998, and even withdrawal from the ECHR as the ultimate version of regaining subsidiarity need to ponder perhaps the following one or two inconveniences:

    1. Repeal of the HRA1998 leaves us still in the ECHR, and because our courts (no doubt) would be legislated from acting within the terms of the ECHR, we would see less cases settled here and more having to go to Strasbourg – this was precisely the regime prior to incorporation under the HRA1998. Britain had an embarrassing number of cases against it heard there.

    2. The removal of the facility for a judge to issue a Declaration of Incompatibility re a UK law as regards the Convention would place judges in an impossible situation. Up to 1998, a judge could not cite the ECHR in a judgement, now s/he can and, having passed a judgment, s/he may, nonetheless make a declaration that the law on which the judgment was based is inconsistent with our obligations under the Convention. On which the minister responsible has to make a statement to that effect before Parliament which then has the consider what to do about the inconsistency. I cannot see judges being so compliant that they would rest at all happy with clock-winding-back.

    3. Going the whole hog, of denunciation of the ECHR (Article 58 of same), brings the biggest fly in the withdrawal ointment. For it provides that any case brought concerning a matter which occurred before the date of denunciation will still come within the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. How long might that be a problem for a go-it-alone UK? Also, have the proponents not considered that those opposed to this idea might well rejoin the Convention on next election to government?

    4. The UK already has denied itself the easiest route to subsidiarity by neglecting to incorporate the Article which provides that we should provide for this. The HRA incorporated A1-12 and 15. Article 13 provides that their should be national tribunals for the settlement of breaches of rights under the ECHR. Whether these should be functions tacked onto levels of existing courts or new machinery the Article does not specify.

    Those in parties which support the ECHR ought, surely, now, to advocate an amendment to the HRA1998 to achieve that aim of subsidiarity which is an integral part of the ECHR?

    And what argument might Mrs May and others have against that as an easier route, and one less fraught with problems for the UK? Unless, of course, it is not the machinery of the Court they dislike, but the actual rights in the Convention…..

    • Grrr8

      Your last question answers itself I think 😉 A v. good post for a non-lawyer like myself.

  • Grrr8

    Everytime we think of T. May, we should remember she abused her quasi-judicial position in the case of Gary McKinnon, for quasi-populist reasons/ instructions from the Daily Fail. Gary should have been extradited to the US as Alex Massie has written about in this forum. This is not behaviour fitting for a PM.

    • qvision

      You take your intellectual instructions and moral authority from Massie ?? Good luck with that !

  • CharlietheChump

    May as a leadership candidate, never mind leader? Preposterous. Straight out of The Thick of It.

  • William MacDougall

    May should have resigned over the border control fiasco, and appears to have been promoted only because of her gender. Her speech combines questionable statist industrial policy with hints at things like leaving the Human Rights Treaty, but why hasn’t she made her mind up on that yet? Leader? Couldn’t be worse than the incumbent, but surely the Party can do better.

  • ButcombeMan

    May is the politician who permanently damaged the Tory party with the “nasty party “meme, she created.

    This was stupid then, it is stupid in hindsight.

    No thanks.

    She has no charm.

  • paulus

    Its all true James and we all believe it, Its April the 1st tomorrow so jump into bed and santa will be leaving you some presents. Any more nonsense like this and the amount of money the tooth fairy leaves under your pillow, after I take a pair of pliars to your teeth,will be enough to get you an annuity… ooh then its xmas every day.

  • Barakzai

    The general view seems to be that it isn’t going to happen. I remember that few – and especially not the incumbent – gave the winner of the 1975 Tory leadership election any chance of success either.

  • Tim

    Can we stop all this Theresa may rubbish? She was over promoted to be home secretary. Now pm? Er, no bubble boys.

  • @PhilKean1

    May for leader? – Only if Conservatives NEVER want to win another election

    We need new blood. We need a PROVEN Conservative thinker. We need someone who has NOT been tainted by serving in a Cameron Cabinet – and worse – supporting his left-wing agenda.

    We need someone whose priority is National Sovereignty. We need someone who knows better than to sow the seeds of a bogus perception that the Tory party is somehow a pejorative political organisation.

    We need someone of the right, who knows what is right, and who doesn’t masquerade as a Tory whilst being essentially of the Liberal-left.

    I would just as much vote for her as I would David Cameron. And I will NEVER vote for David Cameron.

    • True_Belle

      We probably need and ex military leader, some one who stands head and shoulders above the rest..some one who has Great Britain engrained in their soul.. is this too much to ask?

      • @PhilKean1

        Not sure about that, Belle.

        Bob Stewart is probably the most Conservative-thinking ex military man. But the military has a bad record in that it producies left-wingers. I mean, Labour is infested with them. And what about Pantsdown? I rest my case.

        • True_Belle

          What party is Sir Michael Jackson?

          • @PhilKean1

            Don’t think he’s an MP yet. But I seem to remember him getting on quite well with Blair.

          • Tim

            Went down hill after the Jackson Five in my opinion

    • The Sage

      I believe that Daniel Hannan is the man for the job. Get him back from Brussels and find him a winnable seat (if such a thing exists any more for the Conservatives and it probably doesn’t).
      He would also be able to cut a deal with UKIP and, bingo, problem solved.

      • David Lindsay

        Why would UKIP want a deal with the Tories? It has just beaten them. In Hampshire, for pity’s sake.

        • The Sage

          Yes, but neither is strong enough to win alone so the sensible solution (especially from a Tory perspective) is to ditch poor old Dave, get in Daniel and work closely with Nigel.

          • David Lindsay

            But I ask again, why would that interest Nigel?

  • HookesLaw

    May is entitled to her opinions and when diced down they will not be found to have too much differentiation with most typical tory leaning views.

    May is being peddled by people who think that she can be bent to suit their own particular prejudice.

    How many Labour home secretaries did we have over 13 years? 6 by my count. In all likelihood May will keep the job for 5. This should tell us something about this administration and the endless shambles that was the last labour one.

    • Reasonable Telemachus

      It suggests there is a great lack of talent. She will keep her job because there is no one capable of replacing her. Unlike Labour where the constant reshuffles were a sign of the great strength of the Party and the tremendous amount of talent available to our Leaders.

      • HookesLaw

        No it suggests that a minister is allowed time to get on with the job. 6 Home Secretaries in 13 years is rubbish.
        And of course when you are reduced to plugging the jolly postman into one of the highest offices in the land then you know you have long since scraped the barrel.

      • Mycroft

        ‘our Leaders’ Why the capital? Or did you make a slip while trying the refer to the great Leader?

  • Daniel Maris

    “She said the party should have an open mind about companies making a profit out of delivering public services.” Is she seriously anyone in the Tory party these days is opposed to that?

    • HookesLaw

      She did not use the word ‘party’ she said

      ‘government should change its approach to public procurement, so we can strike a better balance between short-term value for the taxpayer and long-term benefits to the economy. I don’t mean we should always award contracts to British companies, regardless of price or quality, but we could produce a clear framework that explicitly takes into account the effect of procurement on British jobs, skills and the long-term capacity of our economy.’

      May’s speech is in fact tremendously anodyne. I would be surprised if half its audience were awake at its conclusion.
      Speccy making a mountain out of molehill again.

  • Grrr8

    Just skimmed through May’s speech. Simply put: statism and state power rears its ugly head. And the lemmings in the Tory party seem to be lapping it up. No room for soft libertarians or those who “fear the state and love free markets” here. Speech almost as bad as the UKIP nutters (boy do I love saying that).

    • MirthaTidville

      Yes the same UKIP nutters who beat the Tories into third place (and boy do I love saying that)!!

      • Grrr8

        Misplaced mirth? They still didn’t win the seat. As Bro Nige was too cowardly to contest it, preferring his cushy EU taxpayer funded bunker in Bruxelles.
        Sent from my iPad

        • MirthaTidville

          maybe so but you cant get away from the useless Tories coming third can you??

          • Grrr8

            They way Gideon is managing the economy, I’d not be unhappy if/when Brother Balls enters #11 Downing Street.

  • Reasonable Telemachus

    I have to say that I do find Teresa May rather beguiling, if I am allowed to say so. I wish that she was a member of the progressive party, even though she is certainly committed to the progressive agenda. I don’t know if it is her shoes that do it for me.

    • MirthaTidville

      You can have her, she`ll fit right in with your equally talentless lot

  • Reasonable Telemachus

    It is too late. Changing the leader will not make a difference. The Conservative Party has abandoned its constituents and now the policies it proposes are all better implemented by the Labour Party. Reactionaries need to find a real Conservative Party or their future is gloomy.

    • RolandsDelectus

      They will lose the next election because they are much too reactionary and right-wing. 25% of their voters at the last election lived in social housing: they’re gone, not least because of the bedroom tax, which is the issue of the moment and the next few months if they’re mad enough to go through with it.

      • anyfool

        You assume the 25% who voted for them were claiming benefits, most would prefer a tax cut to claiming benefits even if they were, because people like Telemucus have no pride does not mean others are the same.

        • RolandsDelectus

          No, I don’t assume they are on benefits. But people in social housing know that now if they become unemployed they stand to lose their home because they no longer receive full benefit when on the dole, because of the bedroom tax. And any in social housing who have kids now stand to lose their homes as those kids leave, freeing up a bedroom. Neither of these things has been true till now. And it won’t be forgiven. I’m a Tory of over forty years and I’ll never vote for the party again. The anger over this is reaching fever pitch, even if it has not yet reached the press; and a majority of Tory voters are against it according to the most recent poll.

          I don’t think that casting aspersions about Telemachus’s ‘pride’ are warranted or helpful.

          • Grrr8

            Roland – how many of those 25% would vote Tory even without the bedroom tax/ subsidy policy. I’d guess not too many.

  • Steven Efstathiou
  • David Lindsay

    The mere presence of any UKIP candidate will hand her seat to the Lib Dem.

    The same goes for David Davis.

    • fubarroso

      And the fault lies where?

      • David Lindsay

        In people who think that either of them is the Leader in Waiting.

        UKIP could not stand against Davis, but that would just make both of them look ridiculous, not to say more than a little suspicious.