Brian Monteith: Southgate could teach May how to play politics

The Conservatives have done something stupid, very stupid in fact. Under the direction of Theresa May they have taken an admittedly difficult task '“ negotiating a deal to make Brexit as seamless as possible '“ but then doubled its difficulty by making themselves, for the moment, unelectable.

Wednesday, 18th July 2018, 7:00 am
Gareth Southgate managed to turn Englands fourth place into a success. Picture: PA
Gareth Southgate managed to turn Englands fourth place into a success. Picture: PA

Were there an election today, next week, next month probably, then they would lose.

To lose to possibly the worst Labour leader I can remember says just how bad the Tory Party is looking right now.

There are some, and you dear reader may be one of that number, who like Corbyn. Fair enough. Still, I think most would agree with me that a more professional, more consistent Labour leader – and one less divisive of his own party on issues such as the friends he keeps and his pandering to anti-semitism – would have probably beaten May last year or at least be well ahead in the polls.

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Yet even now May is still ranked higher by the British public than Jeremy Corbyn – although the person called “Don’t Know” is now the most popular.

Still, Labour is at last in front of the Tories, but only because the Prime Minister has conspired to lose the trust of the British people. Why, the cabinet can’t even trust the Prime Minister so why should we give her our trust?

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May and her Conservatives are a minority government. They have a working majority only because the DUP places her job security above giving the task to Corbyn.

This means that it does not take much of a swing in public sentiment to put the Conservatives out when given the opportunity.

Politics is often like football – management of expectations can mean a great deal to how success or failure is viewed. Few football analysts thought the English team would go far in the World Cup, even less so the English public. By playing down expectations but talking up the team’s spirit and commitment, their manager Gareth Southgate was able to bring a sense of pride to their achievement in finishing fourth. The lack of swaggering arrogance at the outset even made it far easier for many Scots to wish them well and support them as the only British team present.

From the start, May created the wrong expectations around her intentions and abilities. We can now see she is no negotiator.

Donald Trump was right when he said to her he would have done it differently by firstly announcing he would sue the EU (and yes, there is a case). This pitching high to then come lower so that there is compromise on both sides is standard practice – it’s called haggling, but May is no haggler.

Now, having betrayed her Cabinet Secretary for Brexit by pulling a surprise new negotiating position out of a hat, she has disappointed both Remainers and Leavers alike.

It will take only a few thousand Tory votes, sometimes even less, to switch to Ukip and swathes of her MPs will lose their seats. Already candidates are being identified to stand against Tories in their Scottish seats.

Having lost the trust of the British people, she must now be ousted by her colleagues. They have time to do this before the next election, but very little time to do it before we leave the EU in March next year.

They really need to act now, change their approach to Brexit, and if need be go to the country to seek a fresh mandate for the new leader with their new plan. It is their only way to recover the people’s trust and keep Corbyn outside No. 10.