As honeymoon periods go, this one being “enjoyed” by Theresa May’s chaotic new government has the feel of a dream fortnight in the Maldives coinciding with the arrival in the shallows of a local extended shark family.
And the omens aren’t good for the scenic helicopter tour.
Honeymoon periods are so called, of course, because at the outset of a marriage the love felt by those involved is of such dazzling quality that the world and all the people in it feel bathed in a glow of perfection.
“What could possibly go wrong?” whisper the participants, to a soundtrack of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful”, before the needle harshly skids off the record to be replaced by a loop of Theresa May muttering “strong and stable, strong and stable” as if worried she might fail to commit this essential data to memory.
The great opportunity that a honeymoon period in politics presents is the chance to set processes in motion with an energy and vigour that vanishes rapidly once disillusion, personal hostilities, realisation one might have been lied to and various other political realities emerge.
There are no second honeymoons.
Mrs May’s previous government, however, in arranging the ceremony, at short notice admittedly, entirely overlooked the booking of a flashy island getaway to follow immediately afterward.
As a result, instead of figuratively tracing a finger through a long list of exotic cocktails, the first couple of weeks of the new administration have brought
- Brexit negotiations which feel more like flustered people bumping into each other
- A solemn announcement that reports of a “magic money tree” were untrue, only for a billion quid to squirt from nowhere into the treasure chest of some of Northern Ireland’s top bigots
- The lamentable decision by the Prime Minister not to meet members of the public following the Grenfell Tower fire
- The public sector salary cap “u-turn on a u-turn” of such clumsy ineptitude that if executed by dancers on Strictly would have sent Craig Revel-Horwood into an ecstasy of cruelty.
All this uselessness can’t be an accident.
“But sensible-ness is not a currency that plays in politics. Sensible is the person who gets to look after the kitty on a hen do”
In an organisation, it’s the person at the top who sets the tone, whether that’s a newsroom, a rock group, a double glazing company or a Premier League football team.
And one doesn’t have to look hard to see that the person at the top of the government does not have the qualities demanded by the pressures of the day.
Mrs May had the good fortune to take the leadership in a contest that involved Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom, which is not only like standing against the chamber of horrors, but also had the effect of making her appear “sensible” – a virtue compared to the qualities of the other ghouls.
But sensible-ness is not a currency that plays in politics. Sensible is the person who gets to look after the kitty on a hen do, not cajole a country into something approaching a choreographed unit.
The Grenfell disgrace was a good example. Perhaps it was the sensible thing not to meet the public – the police had better things to do than stroll around with her, the situation was raw and the public would only have said nasty things to her any way.
But as a reading of what the right thing to do was, she was off by 180 degrees.
And this after having the brass neck to stand up outside number 10 the day after the election and promise a “government that can provide certainty”, seemingly oblivious to the fact that recent governments of which she has been a member are entirely responsible for the current national state of massive uncertainty. And her latest moves indicate that they’ll be sticking with the chaos for now, thanks. It’s our brand.
Every cloud, though, of course, and over in America there’s another leader who decided to skip the honeymoon and get straight down to the business of ruining things.
The silver lining has come for the psychotherapy industry, which is finding its sofas very heavily booked these days.
“He says he’s the jobs president,” one Bay Area shrink told New York Magazine, probably steepling his or her fingers. “Well, he certainly is for me and my fellow therapists.”
Another said of the first few days after the election, “Clients who I hadn’t seen in years were calling me for emergency appointments.”
The kind of conditions they are witnessing in patients are “shock,” “anger”, “anxiety, sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness,” and an “apocalyptic rant”.
While Americans may be a little more relaxed with the notion of booking themselves in to transfer their emotional burdens to a therapist, just because people do it less in the UK doesn’t mean British people are not shocked, angry, sad and ranting apocalyptically.
Having laid the table for uncertainty, this government should not be surprised to find historic highs of mental imbalance in the population, which will doubtless express itself through its conventional outlets – suicide, homelessness, domestic violence, self harm, absenteeism, substance abuse and a long and very depressing etc.
If this is you, find someone to talk to about it as soon as possible, though preferably not a random stranger and at the top of your voice while enjoying a discount cider. By then it may be too late.
If all else fails, try Prince Harry. He’s probably awaiting your call. Not Prime Minister May though.
She doesn’t do people.