By Daniel J. McLaughlin
"Trust me on this" are not the words that inspire hope and confidence from a prime minister. When Theresa May asks the British people to trust her to deliver on Brexit, she is asking for blind faith. Agnostic, or even atheistic, thinking can be forgiven against the prime minister, who has done nothing to justify the trust she asks for.
Writing for the Sunday Times, Mrs May said: “You can trust me to deliver. I will not let you down.”
She wanted to get away from the “noisy debate and technical discussions” of Britain's departure from the EU, and insisted that the government will "take control of our money".
The prime minister said: "We have agreed a settlement with the European Union and the days of vast contributions from taxpayers to the EU budget are coming to an end.
“So, Brexit means there will be billions of pounds that we used to send to Brussels which we will now be able to spend on domestic priorities, including our National Health Service.”
She added that there had to be compromise: “So, Brexit means that, while we may sometimes choose to take the same approach as the EU, our laws will be made in Westminster, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast, with those laws tried by British judges.”
But why trust the prime minister, when does not have the support of her own Cabinet? On the customs partnership, where Britain would collect tariffs on all imports on behalf of the EU, foreign secretary Boris Johnson called it "crazy" and a “new web of bureaucracy”. Environment secretary Michael Gove became the latest minister to speak out against the new customs plan, saying there are "significant question marks" over the preferred arrangement pushed by Downing Street.
There is less than a year to go until Britain leaves the EU, and yet Theresa May and the government cannot agree what to ask for in the exit negotiations.
The Telegraph's Simon Heffer argues that the prime minister is "creating an atmosphere of uncertainty by her incompetent handing of this issue [Brexit]". She has given no clear idea of what type of deal Britain is seeking from the EU, whether in terms of access, or otherwise, to the single market. She has proved "incapable" on this question and on almost everything else over the course of her premiership.
"The public perceive a prime minister incapable of taking a decision; so, if to govern is to choose, she cannot govern. Her apparent lack of core political beliefs, notably on Brexit, undermines her and the government, for there can be no leadership without conviction," Heffer writes.
There was Thatcherism, a belief in the free market and a small state; there was Blairism, a belief in the principles and values of social democracy, but more policies friendly to the market. But what on Earth is Mayism? It is a political ideology that is either not there, or is opaque. The prime minister spouts generalised argument, such as "Brexit means Brexit", without stating the specifics, if there are any at all.
While there is no clear political ideology from May, in particular on Brexit, there are some evident tactics she uses. Bloomberg names her secret to surviving Brexit: her ability to delay. "Theresa the Delayer" has survived so long by avoiding confrontations and finding a compromise that enables both sides to claim victory. While compromise is a huge part of politics and the Brexit negotiations, there should be one clear position from the leader - she doesn't offer that. Instead of offering a solution, she throws it to the table, saying "you choose".
Theresa May once believed that she offered "strong and stable leadership", but her latest soundbite is to ask British people to "trust her" on Brexit. By pleading to voters, her leadership is not strong at all - and the stability may fall next.