Ben Lowry: May is like Merkel – Let us hope they get along

Theresa May
Theresa May

During the referendum campaign various MPs visited the News Letter offices.

One of them, a Tory Brexiteer, predicted that even if the country voted Remain, the next Conservative leader would be a Eurosceptic.

It looks like the opposite outcome might happen – that the nation votes Leave but the Tory leadership goes to a Remain supporter, Theresa May. The party membership might have other ideas and prefer Andrea Leadsom. It was foolish enough to choose Iain Duncan Smith over Ken Clarke.

I interviewed May in Belfast during the 2010 general election, and she seemed thoughtful and intelligent.

She is accused of going ‘missing in action’ during the Remain campaign, but she was sufficiently involved in that effort to travel to Northern Ireland to make the case for ongoing EU membership.

I was told of the visit at the last minute and offered a slot to interview her in Bangor on June 21 but could not go. It was a pity to miss Mrs May, having met other key players in the debate during their NI visits.

It is particularly frustrating to have missed a chance to assess her anti Brexit arguments now that she might soon be at the helm of Brexit.

If she does enter Downing Street, she could become Britain’s Angela Merkel – both are women aged around 60 who are married but childless.

Both have an air of competence and a capacity for toughness but also for compassion. If they are negotiating and have a rapport it will be good for Britain.

Michael Gove was super bright. When I was on the first rung in journalism, learning to sub edit on The Times, he was only four years older than me but one of its star columnists. He had a fine writing style. I saw him in the office but we never spoke.

His assault on Boris Johnson, even if he thought it justified, was disastrously judged.

Boris too is a man of the highest intelligence. If you read his journalism, as opposed to listen to what he says, he is a first rank politician.

He had ideas, one of which was to restore London’s classic Routemaster buses (with Ballymena-built replacements).

His big vision, foiled by pygmies, was to close Heathrow, turn it into good housing (for which west London is so suited but of which it is so short) and open the world’s best airport in the Thames Valley.

He often undermined Cameron, joshingly but ruthlessly, after he became Tory leader in 2005. But my main problem with Boris was his clowning around. His humour was not to my taste, and it is irritating when someone you find unfunny keeps playing for laughs. But even if I had found him hilarious I would have thought it inappropriate.

Politics is perhaps the most serious occupation in human affairs. At the top level it impacts on millions of lives.

There is nothing funny about it, and acting as if there is strikes me as a form of political blasphemy.

Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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