THERESA May’s Easter message is a puzzle, and one that raises a question: has she mistaken herself for the Archbishop of Canterbury?
Mrs Maybe’s three-minute recorded message recalled her childhood growing up in a vicarage. Where Mrs Thatcher could summon up the corner shop run by her father, Alfred Roberts, her successor likes to talk about life in the vicarage of the Rev Hubert Brasier.
No offence to either man, but Reverend Hubert and Alderman Roberts – Margaret Thatcher often mentioned that civic honour – have little relevance beyond the personal. Although it does seem that Theresa May seems keen to remind people that she is the daughter of a vicar – implying, oddly, in her Easter message that the country now must come together and that – more oddly still – God would probably have voted for Brexit.
That last interpretation was offered by Alistair Campbell, onetime spin doctor to Tony Blair and now editor-at-large of the pro-European weekly newspaper, the New European. More spin, perhaps, but he does have a point.
Here is part of what Theresa May said in her message: “This year, after a period of intense debate over the right future for our country, there is a sense that people are coming together and uniting behind the opportunities that lie ahead. For at heart, this country is one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future. And as we face the opportunities ahead – the opportunities that stem from our decision to leave the EU, and embrace the world – our shared interests, our shared ambitions and, above all, our shared values can and must bring us together.”
Hope you managed to struggle through that paragraph without succumbing to queasiness thanks to Mrs May’s condescension. Is it just me or does the prime minister always sound like she is talking down to us as if she were standing on something elevated – a pulpit, perhaps? Only the other day, she felt moved to join in the great non-story about Easter being banished by an unholy alliance of Cadbury and the National Trust.
I don’t wish to be unkind about religion. Although I have no religion myself, plenty of people do – and many of them are inspired by their faith to work for the wider social good. It’s that mix of religion and politics that makes me uneasy, along in this instance with the prime minister’s repeated references to the vicarage of her youth – as if somehow what the country needs is to become the parish her father once tended to.
And her attempts to present the still divisive EU vote as a national coming together should not be allowed to pass without a heckle or two; and this is mine.
Mind you, the ins and outs of Britain’s place in Europe pale next to the referendum in Turkey which Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won by a similarly narrow margin to our own vote last June. Erdogan held what was in effect a “make me a dictator” vote and this morning he has sneaked a victory, even if his opponents are crying foul and saying that the vote was rigged.
As if the world wasn’t scary enough, now Turkey has elected an all-powerful president, who declares that he will roll away all opposition and assume what is in effect total power (a bit like Putin in Russian, but fortunately not yet Trump in the US).
Perhaps – and that sound you can hear is the gritting of teeth – a vicar’s daughter who sneaked into 10 Downing Street when no one was paying full attention isn’t such a terrible thing after all.