Great Britain is a leaky, unwieldy vessel in a tempestuous sea. Captain Cameron made some calamitous decisions. He should never have agreed to this wretched referendum. The emotive process destabilised, perhaps wrecked, our representative democracy forever by seriously undermining those elected to represent us, most of whom are diligent public servants. (Margaret Thatcher rightly believed these faux democratic exercises were devices favoured by 'dictators and demagogues'. Between 1936 and 1940 Hitler held four plebiscites to consolidate power.)
What is hailed as a victory of the people was, in truth, an ugly tussle for power within the Tory party. 'The people who have spoken' were whipped up to a frenzy of Europhobia by Ukip and other Brexiters. Pro-EU Cameron abandoned ship. The Tory leadership contest was, again, reprehensively loutish and culminated in a bonfire of political vanities. Out of the ashes now rises the super-ambitious, severe, enigmatic, always stylish Theresa May. She moves into Downing Street.
For a feminist like myself this should be a momentous and jubilant moment. It isn't. Some successful females – Andrea Leadsom, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Cherie Blair and other pro-war Blairite ladies and Ann Widdecombe, Mrs May, force us to examine some of the fairy tales of feminism and to define our belief system with greater clarity and honesty. Not all women with power are good for women or the wider society.
The other question that arises out of the crowning of Mrs May is this: Do we excuse the failures of leading women or do we apply higher standards to them in order to shake up musty, dysfunctional institutions and practices?
In her speech on Monday (12 July), Mrs May sounded inspirational and convincing, a one-nation Tory who is as concerned as the Labour left about income inequalities and workers' rights. For this social democrat the words were like a dawn chorus on a new summer's day. Mrs May is good with words. Her actions have, in the past, not delivered what they promised. More on that anon.
The most urgent current issue is whether, as so many Tories now claim, we have docked and the anchor is strong enough to keep the UK steady for a while.
For a feminist like myself this should be a momentous and jubilant moment. It isn't.
I don't think so. Almost half the population wanted to stay in the EU. We were told very few young Brits voted. This week a new survey found that the figure was much higher than was claimed. Most of them wanted in. Yet Theresa May insists that 'Brexit means Brexit' and is hell-bent on pushing it through, without an election, without all UK citizens having their say on whether she should be the PM and whether such a decision can be rushed through.
As we now know, some of those who voted to get out feel they were misled by leading campaigners. Those who chose to remain are seething. May should not presume that her calm presence and sturdiness will get her through this period of unprecedented national turmoil.
Angela Eagle, who is challenging Jeremy Corbyn, is a principled politician and feminist. Thousands of Labour voters and the parliamentary Labour party are at an impasse. Eagle will not bring them closer together. Perhaps no one can. Perhaps a new party of centrist, pro-EU social democrats will have to be formed, an alliance between the regrouping Lib Dems, anti-Corbyn Labourites and the Greens. Such ventures have not succeeded in the past but maybe, given time, this will save us from total fragmentation and political disillusionment.
An election at present will only make the turmoil worse... Around the world, the UK is seen as an ungovernable nation in nervous meltdown, a basket case.
The problem is that an election at present will only make the turmoil worse. The opposition parties are trying to recover from their own wounds, so the Tories would win, but leave millions feeling disenfranchised. Scotland wants to stay in the EU and may quit the UK. It's a bloody mess. Around the world, the UK is seen as an ungovernable nation in nervous meltdown, a basket case.
Back now to our new PM. She is, as Ken Clarke says, 'bloody difficult'. She's ill at ease and doesn't do conviviality. That's OK. But her hypocrisy and ruthlessness isn't. In 2002, she warned her colleagues that they were thought to be the 'nasty party', unsympathetic to the poor and to minorities. As Home Secretary she took real, bold action against racism in the police forces. Then she become the nastiest of anti-migrant Tories and, thus far, has done nothing for Syrian refugees. I fear we will see an even tougher May now.
Cameron should have held things together until next year. He understood statesmanship better than anyone else in politics today. On Monday he was heard humming as he went to Downing Street. I don't think the nation will sing for long after he's gone. I say this as someone who opposed much of what he said and did. That shows what a state we're in.