At today’s press launch for Matthew Taylor’s report on work, the Prime Minister gave a clear illustration of the consequences of job insecurity.
She failed to turn the occasion into a significant political opportunity. Once again, she underwhelmed.
To start with, the actual event failed to match up to its pre-billing. The advance releases launched the concept of cross-party working and a new, listening government. That certainly created something of a buzz. But the reality was one short sentence inviting other parties to bring forward proposals on how to implement ideas in the Taylor report. In other words, after the colourful rocket, came the damp squib.
Maybe the text was changed, after opposition parties quickly rubbished the idea of joint working. But whatever the reason, it’s a clear demonstration of insecurity when your heavily trailed event fails to match expectations.
Then there is the problem of words and actions. It is a year since Mrs May stood on the steps of Downing Street and declared her political agenda. She repeated most of the aspirations at the Taylor Review event. But where is the action that is turning the aspirations into reality?
Once again she spoke of ‘bold action’. But, strikingly, at this much-trailed ‘re-launch’ event, there was from the Prime Minister not one single bold announcement.
Successful governments make the political weather. They set the direction and determine the momentum of politics. They are in control of what Matthew Taylor’s old boss used to call the rhythm of government.
If Mrs May’s government was able to follow the rule book, not only would today’s event have stepped beyond the expectation, it would also have contained a headline-grabbing announcement. Instead, there was nothing from Mrs May for the media to take away from the event. The headlines will be Mr Taylor’s – or maybe Boris Johnson, as he chose the same time (accident or design?) to opine on the EU’s Brexit divorce bill. This complete lack of strategy in respect of the rhythm speaks volumes for the Prime Minister’s insecurity.
The absence of any rhythm also shows in that her government isn’t joined up. She commissioned the Taylor report. And yet the Queens Speech, which determines Parliament’s agenda for the next two years, makes no provision for legislation to ensure ‘good work’ – on the back of the report’s recommendations. Instead, Mrs May resorted to old clichés about the report leading to a ‘national debate’ – code for we don’t really know what to do with this at the moment.
There was a striking gap between one passage of her speech, which sounded as if it was cut and pasted from the election campaign – where she laid out the Conservative’s case as the party of working people – and the passage where she responded to the Taylor report by saying that it would all take time and that she needed to listen to all contributions. It shows lack of security to, on the one hand, acclaim the centrality of the issue, but, on the other, have no distinctive offer by way of action in response.
As a relaunch of her premiership – if that is what was intended – it must be declared a flop. It was a flat speech, with no new initiative, nothing to command the headlines, and certainly nothing to quell the worries about her amongst many in the Conservative party.
Mrs May’s was unable to give Mr Taylor’s important report the impetus that it deserves because her government has no rhythm. It has no rhythm because it has so little authority.
Mrs May is a dependent contractor.
Not the preferred work status of an authoritative leader of the nation’s government.
Main image: “Home Secretary, Theresa May, speaking at the Girl Summit” by DFID – UK Department for International Development is licensed under CC BY 2.0.