THERESA MAY’S lacklustre policy speech, and the lackadaisical response of Tory activists, came at the end of a turbulent week for the Prime Minister.
Though she defended the Government’s economic strategy before highlighting the importance of the United Kingdom’s combined strength, her thoughts – and those of her audience – were clearly on other matters.
This is the week that has seen the first significant cracks in Mrs May’s Government. The threat of a second referendum on Scottish independence threatens to derail the PM’s Brexit strategy after forcing a delay in the planned triggering of Article 50; plans to increase the self-employed’s NI contributions had to be dropped and the criminal investigation into Tory election expenses in 2015 continues to show no sign of abating.
Yet, while Mrs May has shown strong – and admirable – leadership in resisting the SNP’s referendum call until the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union have been concluded, the work of government is so difficult that the Prime Minister needs the strongest possible team around her. Regrettably, this does not appear to be the case.
Not only is her Chancellor unaware of the contents of the Conservative Party’s 2015 manifesto, but her three Brexit Ministers appear to be in a perpetual state of loggerheads and other Ministers are complacent in the extreme when it comes to social care. Yet, given Mrs May has forged her reputation on her business-like approach to government, what is most perturbing of all is the quality of advice that she, and others, have been receiving from the army of strategists employed by both Whitehall and the Tory party. Neither the country, nor the Prime Minister, can afford them to continue in a similar vein for much longer when this country requires a collective effort like no other to ensure that Brexit is the success still envisaged by so many.
THERESA May’s assertion that the Conservatives are the only “national party” will ring hollow in those rural Yorkshire communities which feel increasingly let down by successive governments.
Like Philip Hammond who failed to acknowledge rural Britain’s existence in his Budget, it was the same with the Prime Minister’s keynote policy speech to Tory activists.
And while Mrs May does have more pressing priorities after the most difficult week of her premiership thus far, she can’t afford to simply pay ‘lip service’ to the countryside whenever her restless backbenchers demand extra funding for rural schools.
The policy challenges are far more complex. Contrary to popular perception, picture postcard scenes mask deep pockets poverty, as revealed by the Local Government Association and Public Health England in a new report, while the inaccessibility of basic health services on this scale would not be tolerated in urban constituencies.
This is not the first report to highlight glaring omissions in the provision of healthcare, or high-speed broadband, for example. Countless other studies have come to similar conclusions in recent years, and others will do so in the future.
The regret is that there appears to be so little positive action on the Government’s part. Though Mrs May should be commended for wanting to bring about greater ‘fairness’ in society, she does need to apply this principle to countryside areas and start rural-proofing policies. For, if the PM doesn’t, very few of her Ministers can be trusted to do so, not least the increasingly invisible Environment Secretary.
HER songs helped sustain a beleaguered nation in the darkest days of the Blitz, and now Dame Vera Lynn prepares to celebrate her 100th birthday.
Many people would mark such an occasion with a slice of cake or a glass of champagne, Dame Vera has done it by releasing a record of some of her best-known songs, a feat which makes her the first singer to release a new album as a centenarian.
In a career spanning more than 80 years Dame Vera became famous around the world, but it was wartime songs such as We’ll Meet Again and (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover for which her name is now etched into British folklore.
Travelling abroad, often at great personal risk, to entertain troops and provide them with messages of hope, she earned the nickname the Forces’ Sweetheart. Today a grateful nation salutes a remarkable individual who could not be more deserving of her ‘national treasure’ status.