Why Theresa May must now step down

Grenfell Tower - Theresa May

In the wake of Grenfell Tower, Theresa May’s position has become untenable. It has been clear since the election that the Conservative party no longer wants her as leader, except only in the short term to secure their fragile hold on power. Her proposed method for doing so - a deal with the DUP - threatens the stability of the peace process in Northern Ireland in the view of many key participants and is not supported by the only electoral asset the Conservatives have, the gay leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson. Many in the Cabinet are known to doubt where this is leading the country, but as so often before, they are putting party before country in the hope that events will somehow turn in their favour.

They have, with the help of Mrs May, done the opposite. Her instinctive response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy - to visit the scene but avoid exposure to angry residents - demonstrates to everyone but apparently the Conservative high command her complete unsuitability to be the nation’s leader. Michael Portillo got it right when he said that, in line with her approach during the election, “she wanted an entirely controlled situation in which she didn’t use her humanity.”

Two excuses have been offered. One, that there were “security concerns”, and two, that she wanted a briefing from the emergency services. Both are hollow. The tenants in Grenfell Tower and all council tower blocks in the U.K. have more reason to be concerned about their security than the prime minister. And while it is no doubt important to be briefed by the emergency services, how is that an alternative to meeting the residents? The emergency services are heroic and we owe them a debt of gratitude for placing their lives on the line on our behalf, but our focus now must be not on them but on the mothers and children huddled in their flats, the old people unable to move, the teenagers messaging their friends, all in the knowledge they were about to perish - and our knowledge that this is due in no small part to negligence and hugely misplaced public priorities.

The excuses offered on Theresa May’s behalf underline her inability to connect with and speak for the nation – in Manchester, Belfast, Edinburgh, London or Brussels. Conservatives who have a sense of responsibility for the nation must see that. Party consequences are not what matter. She must step down - if not today, then at least before Parliament reconvenes.

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