The Daily Mail says – and how’s that for a depressing start to a sentence – that Theresa May will today offer an inspiring vision of the sort of country Britain can become once free of Europe.
‘Inspiring’, ‘Theresa’ and ‘May’ are words not often found huddled together in my neck of the woods. To be inspirational demands having something about you besides a sort of dogged vagueness and an air of thin-skinned impatience.
The way this story is reported this morning says something about the lack of variety in our newspapers. The boys in the Brexit band are all shouting for Mrs May. The Mail’s front page goes for ‘Theresa’s New Free Britain’ and a trio of sub-headings, including: “She rejects any deal that leaves us ‘half-in, half-out’.
The Daily Express comes puffing up behind the Mail to wheeze out two headlines: “At last the news we’ve been waiting for” and “We will get clean break from EU”. Never knowingly more than two feet from a pun, The Sun prefers “Great Brexpectations”.
The Daily Telegraph goes for “May: my 12-point plan for Brexit”, while the Times, which chooses not to lead on the story, picks: “May sets out hard Brexit vision in bid to calm markets.”
Other papers follow a similar line, only without the Tory top-spin, and the Financial Times frowns over the top of its half-moon glasses – “Carney inflation alert as May sets course for clean break with EU”.
Remember for a moment that Brexit was a close-run vote, not that far from a 50/50 split, and you begin to see that the newspapers don’t necessarily represent the people. The pro-Brexit bias is so clamorous that nothing else can be heard over the shouting.
Those who for a time at least were calling themselves the 48 per cent don’t have many places to go, although the Daily Mirror does at least keep up a running heckle, saying this morning: “It’s obvious the prime minister remains clueless about where she wants to take Britain and how we’ll get to the destination.”
But for the most part, it’s as if the other popular newspapers have all had a Nigel Farage brain transplant. The Sun comes under the spell of Donald Trump and his “you guys are doing great” version of events, saying “The PM and the country are in a far stronger position at this point than many dreamed, especially the Remainers.”
To which the only response can be to walk off humming: “It hasn’t happened yet.”
Will this Brexit Bus end its mystery tour in the sunny uplands of popular imagination; will Britain once again rule the waves while going in search of trade; or will we profoundly regret having cut off our nose to spite our face?
Who can say, but today Mrs May will set about trying to convince us that she has a plan. People don’t smoke so much nowadays, and Mrs May surely doesn’t, but there must be a nicotine-free version of the old back of a fag packet that people used to scribble these things on.
The prime minister goes in for these big statements, and sometimes they turn out not to be all that big at all. If you ask me, it’s back to that old wait-and-see pudding I have mentioned before, newly relaunched as Mrs May’s English Jam Roly-Poly (ingredients: nothing foreign).
When she’s not trying to convince us that she knows what she’s doing, Mrs May likes to lay into the medical profession. Where Mrs Thatcher had the miners as a useful enemy, modern Tories have rather oddly taken against doctors.
First, Jeremy Hunt had his long-running battle with junior doctors, and now Mrs May blames GPs for causing the collapse of the NHS by not working hard enough. The health service is a huge challenge whoever is running it, but the wobbles seem more alarming every time the Tories have their turn with the political trainset.
And saying that hospitals are too full because GPs don’t open their surgeries for long enough is a brazen bit of buck-passing, isn’t it? Last night I caught up with Hospital on BBC2, an astonishing behind-the-scenes documentary showing the almost impossible challenges of running a hospital nowadays. The second part is on tomorrow night and it’s well worth a look.
Theresa May should watch. She might even learn something.