YESTERDAY WAS NOT the best campaign day for Theresa May, who is doing her best to enter into the spirit of the “cut and run” election – but not always quite getting there.
Most of the day was taken up with a furious debate on how the Prime Minister eats her chips. She went to the seaside, she had a cone of take-away chips – whether as a publicity stunt or just because she was hungry is not clear. Photos were taken of her eating her chips – and pulling a face which just seemed to say “I am not used to eating chips with my fingers out of a plastic cone.”
The papers wrote comparisons between May and her chips and the famous photo of former Labour Leader Ed Miliband eating that bacon sandwich. Memes circulated online. None of it left Ms May looking popular or populist – and even those greedy seagulls left her and her chips alone.
Perhaps she was grumpy after this vilification – by a press pack which was getting a bit fed up with being sidelined at her official engagements – or perhaps she had indigestion, but for whatever reason the Prime Minister ended the day with a rather bizarre claim.
Ever since she moved Article 50 (and even a bit before), Theresa May has promised she could be – and would be – tough in the Brexit negotiations. This image was rather spoiled when she called a snap General Election in order to give herself a new mandate so that she could look a bit tougher.
So far, it’s been not so good – with the EU deciding that negotiations would proceed on the basis of the EU agenda, not the UK one; and with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, reportedly leaving a Downing Street dinner with his confidence that negotiations would lead to agreement between the UK and EU reduced to 10% of what it had been. (He probably wished they’d just gone out and got some chips so he could get home in time for the football.)
To round off her day, Theresa May announced that she could be a “bloody difficult woman” – and this was how she would approach negotiations with Mr Juncker in the future. The EU responded to this threat by announcing that Ms May will be invited to negotiate with the Commission’s negotiator but not with the EU heads of state – and increasing its financial demands to £92 billion. This morning the bill was up to over £100 billion. It’s hard the sign of a union that is being impressed by its negotiating partner.
Quite what possessed Ms May to think that announcing she was going to be a “bloody difficult woman” was going to make the EU warm to her is not at all clear. That kind of language just brings back memories of Margaret Thatcher. Of course Theresa May is not Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher was an unpopular Tory Prime Minister presiding over a divided Tory Party (not least on the EU); who privatised many public assets while also slashing welfare spending and civil liberties; and who led the UK into dispensing with diplomacy in favour of the Cruise Missile. Hang on a minute…