Does Mrs May have a prayer? She does now
I light a candle every day and pray for Theresa May. My friend Ken came up with the idea. He lights a candle too, even though he is not religious. You might like to join us. This is, of course, the season for candles. In the Christian world, a candle is a sign of hope for new life to come out of darkness and despair.
The words of the prophet Isaiah, read in church during December, have hit me particularly hard this year. Isaiah looks forward to a time when weapons will be turned into ploughshares, when the wolf will lie down with the lamb, when everyone will be fed and prisoners be set free. Giving a hint about the values of infrastructure projects, Isaiah tells us to make a straight highway through the desert. Those days seems further away than ever.
Isaiah’s prophecies are usually seen as foretelling the birth of Jesus Christ, some 700 years later. I prefer to think of the old man struggling to maintain his belief that things will get better against all the evidence. That is why his words resonate so much to me in this, the gloomiest of years.
I can remember being frightened at the time of Suez and Cuba but have never since been afraid of a major war in my life time until today. Daniel Blake has brought home to me that good people even in our own country may not be fed. Donald Trump and his entourage of climate deniers makes me worried that global meltdown is much closer. His friend Vladimir Putin is rampant on the war path.
In these weeks of Advent when it is dark in the afternoon, we wait expectantly that somehow light will come into the world, that the humble Bilbo Baggins will defy the odds or that a baby will be born. Your ways are not my ways, the Lord told Isaiah. All we can do is to light a candle.
And that brings me back to Theresa May. Not a messiah, thank goodness. The messianic qualities of the president elect scare me to the bone. As far as Ken and I can see, a decent hard working politician born in a vicarage, Theresa goes on walking holidays, cooks her own Christmas dinner, forgoes a stylist and lets her husband chose her handbags. Move over glam Sam. Theresa may be our best hope.
Few would have predicted Theresa May’s coronation a year ago or have proclaimed her inspirational leadership skills. As a politician, she made an impressive start taking risks in her cabinet appointments and not taking hostages to fortune. If she gives more credence to Sleaford than Richmond, she may yet spring an election to strengthen her majority in parliament.
As members of the Labour Party, it is difficult for Ken and I to pray for a Tory. Theresa May has not lived up to the fine words from the steps of Downing Street and on other days, we might argue with her about the policies on selective education or cutting welfare benefits. But on the defining issue of how her government honourably negotiates a way out of Europe, Theresa May deserves our blessing.
It was an irresponsible referendum and a dishonest campaign. The result was closer than some might now like to think, but it was still a three-point win in the ninety minutes and there is no point complaining about the referee’s eyesight. Theresa May is charged, as Isaiah might say, with creating a new earth.
The European project has bedevilled the Conservative party for generations and her options are limited. The Prime Minister has to pacify the people whose parentage was questioned by one of her predecessors. Like John Major, she has risen without trace. She is surrounded by more voluble and ideological colleagues. There is a lamentable absence of alternative leaders on the benches opposite. She is a more responsible and pragmatic politician than any of those who might take over if she slipped up.
Theresa May may be keeping her cards close to her chest because she does not have a plan. A great chess master is supposed to see the whole game from start to finish but lesser players push a pawn up the board looking for openings and hoping for the best.
She was unwise to try and short circuit parliament and their Lordships and are likely to require her to do so. Her ministers play down the difficulties of the legalities involved in leaving Europe which academics reckon will require far longer than two years and an extra 30,000 civil servants.
Theresa May could be the most level headed person to handle interminable negotiations with the European leaders and the most diligent person to keep her head down and work through the morass of paperwork. We need a completer finisher in the most tumultuous political time of our lives.
That is why we should light a candle, get behind her and hope for deliverance. Ken and I wish, as Isaiah would put it, that Theresa soars on wings like eagles, runs and does not grow weary, walks and does faint.
published in Newcastle Journal 13 December 2016