A month is a very long time in politics, as I’m sure you know better than I do. To me the speed with which the media has dispatched your resignation and flown on to newer things is quite remarkable. You were the Prime Minister for goodness sake, and all the newspapers seem to care about now is how brilliantly Theresa May is doing, or how quickly the Labour Party is going to fall apart. To be fair, there is still a remarkable amount of attention-grabbing news going on, so perhaps it’s no wonder that they’re not looking at you any more.
My suspicion is that you’re pretty relieved about that. After all, let’s face it, you had a lot to do with the earth-shaking political events that have been going on in the last couple of months. You were our leader, after all. You enacted policies during your premiership that can quite clearly be identified as root causes of our current political difficulties. You forgot that the economy ought to be the servant of the people, not the other way round; you stripped vulnerable people of their safety net; you have gradually eroded workers’ rights; you have brought about economic instability for many of the British public; and you fed the lie that all the resulting fear and insecurity are caused by people moving to our country to live and work here. Heavy charges indeed, I am aware.
I do however have some sympathy for you. The culture of politics is always shifting according to where the power is more focused, in the UK at least, and in you we seemed to reach the pinnacle of ‘professional politician’. I’m not trotting down the old worn-out line of ‘oh, he’s never had any real life experience because he’s never worked outside of politics’. That’s utter nonsense, since you clearly have a wealth of life experience both within politics and within your own family life. No, my concern is more that there was a very confined image of what a politician ought to be by the time you stepped into power, and you were unable – perhaps through lack of inclination, or lack of self-awareness – to challenge that concept. But contorting yourself to fit a pre-determined role simply shuts down imaginative and visionary capacities, and I wonder if that’s why you seemed to lose the energy and passion you began with when you first took up leadership of the Conservative Party.
And so we come to the subject I particularly wanted to address: the EU referendum. I suppose anyone with any sense ought to have seen the outcome months before the vote took place. The problem was that we had managed to convince ourselves that in Britain, on balance, the public prefers the status quo. We had the Scottish referendum as evidence, after all. Nobody properly understood just how deeply dissatisfied the public has become. I don’t think I could convey to you my own sense of the country’s mood during your premiership, because I’m not sure you could understand it. It has felt as though you have been turning the screw tighter and tighter, like a child wanting to see how tight it will go before it snaps. It has been contraction, gloom, increasingly pressured public services (though still somehow able to deliver above and beyond what you resource them to do), increasing stress around working hours and working rights. I know, I know there are some good things you have done, but overall they don’t shine brightly enough to overshadow the tendrils of stress and fear that have been groping their way into society. If I was to summarise it simply, you failed to give us hope. And I can’t help but think that the referendum result was a direct consequence of that very fact.
I do struggle with having trust in politicians, I will admit it. Twenty years of following politics to a greater or lesser degree has left me a bit tired and cynical, I guess. But do you know, the one time I have truly felt that you were talking about something you actually believed in was when you were campaigning to remain in the European Union. It felt as though you were actually concerned for the people who live in this country if we were to vote to leave. Before that, you seemed so wrapped up in your ideological state-shrinking project that people, on the whole, weren’t that important. It’s such a shame that it took such a drastic moment for you to show that integrity. It’s such a shame that it was a crisis that you had such a hand in creating, too. It wasn’t just about your role in creating national anxiety, it was also about you lacking the courage to face the conflict over Europe within your own party, and handing the problem over to the public to decide instead. I do see the reasoning behind your decision to do so, but I happen to think that your actions were shameful. You played a very dangerous game, and I hope – I really hope – that if nothing else, you feel some remorse for the state you have left us in.
I realise I have criticised you thoroughly in this letter, and my own shame is that I don’t know whether I would feel comfortable in discussing these things with you face to face. How easy it is to hide behind a keyboard and computer screen! As I write, I am trying to practice an awareness of how my words will impact you, a fellow human being, should you ever read this. And I know I would find it difficult to read such words if they were written about me. But you were after all in a position of enormous responsibility, and such responsibility needs to be held to account. The media has generally left you alone for now, but I wonder how long it will be before attention comes back to you and you are asked to account for your actions – and how ready you will be to answer.