Never a dull moment, is there?
Our next Prime Minister is going to be Theresa May. Judging from the photo below, she’s not going to be one of Britain’s more boring Prime Ministers.
“Things may not be so bad,” Chris Snowdon was quick to remark, pointing out that – “on the issues that really matter” – she had consistently voted against UK smoking bans.
Which makes her the first PM to have done so, given that Cameron didn’t vote in February 2006.
Not only that, but she was a smoker in 2007 when the smoking ban she’d voted against came into force. Which almost certainly means that she personally experienced something of the social exclusion that Britain’s smokers began facing on 1 July, and have faced ever since. She’ll know what it’s like to be made to stand outside.
But after the disappointment of David Cameron, I’m not going to get my hopes up about her, given that she said in February 2013:
“I’ve given up drinking. I had my last alcoholic beverage on New Year’s Eve, and I’m not sure when my next one will be. In truth, I’m enjoying waking up and not having to gather my senses together. However, it means that I’m now running out of things I can give up. I quit smoking more than three years ago, and as an experiment, I gave up red meat for Lent last year. Despite one or two lapses, I have managed to keep this up ever since.”
Not even Donald Trump has given up red meat. So she may have become one of those worst kind of creatures: the antismoking ex-smoker.
I regarded David Cameron as unprincipled, and too ready to climb aboard fashionable bandwagons (e.g. global warming). But Theresa May might be different.
What makes a May premiership interestingly unpredictable is that she has always been driven less by ideology than by morality, a very personal sense of right or wrong. Her more radical moments – attacking police corruption, fighting Downing Street for an inquiry into institutional child abuse, overruling civil service advice – often come from a feeling that common decency has been offended. She loathes any sense of impropriety in public service, of sloppy and self-serving behaviour leading to injustice. As prime minister, could she extend that sense of moral duty to economic as well as social issues?
Since she was the daughter of an Anglican vicar (and seems to be a practising Anglican), it shouldn’t be too surprising if she has a “very personal sense of right or wrong”.
May is expected to pitch herself to the nation not merely as a strong leader in a crisis but as a champion of the “left-behind”, people who are struggling financially and voted to leave the EU because they did not see how things could get much worse.
Just today she made what sounded like an interesting speech:
The Home Secretary had just given a 20 minute speech to launch what she thought would be the beginning of a nine week Conservative leadership campaign in which she had made a bold claim to orientate her premiership around the needs and interests of blue collar Tories.
Most smokers are blue collar. And they’ve certainly been “left behind” – as well as left outside -, and they’re also struggling to pay the ever-mounting taxes levied on tobacco, and they can’t see how things can get much worse. They’ve been treated abominably, as anyone with any “sense of right and wrong” should clearly see.
Add it all up, and she just might…. just might be someone who isn’t going to continue to prosecute the war on smokers like her three predecessors for these last ten years.
We’ll find out soon enough, if she’s on our side, or on the antismokers’ side.
Whichever way, one day, we smokers will obtain the justice we are now denied.