Home Alone: Theresa May’s increasing isolation

Conservative in-fighting between Theresa May and Downing Street is pointless. A squabbling party will only deliver a victory for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party.

Home Office - isolated and alone?
Steven George-Hilley
On 22 December 2014 10:46

This morning’s City AM carries the headline “May slammed over anti-migration plot,” with senior MPs and business groups condemning her proposals for a student visa crackdown as a ‘silly idea.’ The offensive has been led by Mark Field MP, who told the paper, “We get some fantastic students... the type of people any country should be looking to encourage. Anything that makes them feel unwelcome can’t enhance London’s reputation.” 

The negative reaction to a flagship proposal from the Home Secretary, announced only yesterday, is likely to delight those inside Downing Street who have become increasingly concerned at her growing powerbase and regular offhand comments from special advisers.

Tensions have been high ever since a ‘friend’ of Mrs May was quoted saying ‘She doesn’t rate Cameron any more… slowly she has seen just how incompetent that operation is. How the PM will say he will do one thing, only to be drawn in another direction. She’s given up on him.’

Such a comment would have been controversial in any publication, but appearing in The Spectator Life Magazine, the unofficial bible of the Tory party, was toxic to the Prime Minister and his relationship with the grassroots.

In yesterday’s Mail on Sunday, former Gordon Brown adviser Damian McBride likened the dispute between Downing Street and the Home Office to that of Blair and the Treasury during the New Labour era. Conservative party members should treat this analogy from a self-confessed smear-merchant with a note of caution, McBride is a well-known troublemaker who never misses an opportunity to inject paranoia to stir infighting.  

There are several very big differences between the current Tory rumblings and Labour years. For a start both David Cameron and Theresa May actually care about the country and have levels of competence and leadership skills which Gordon Brown could never hope to emulate.

Contrast Theresa May’s record at the Home Office to the trail of scandals and resignations during the Blair era, she has delivered a robust programme, deporting terrorists and clamping down on criminals. The job of Home Secretary used to be known as a poison chalice, so the fact it is being seen as a launch pad for future leadership ambitions is testimony to Theresa May's performance in the role.

Despite frequent criticism from his own side, David Cameron is blessed with an astonishingly strong cabinet and his task is now to mobilise those talents to win the election. The party has already seen a transformation of its campaigning machine under the Chairmanship of the energetic Grant Shapps.

If Shapps can turn the lethargic and demoralised campaign infrastructure he inherited into a well-organised national operation within a short space of time, then Dave and Theresa should do the same.

The cabinet is loaded with star performers and the Conservatives have a strong leader in David Cameron who stands a good chance of winning the election next year.

As Shapps often tells the many thousands of activists who campaign alongside him up and down the country, we all have to work together if we want to win.

The cabinet should take this advice on board, immediately.

Steven George-Hilley is a director at the Parliament Street think tank and a Conservative Party activist. He is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator @StevenGeorgia

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