When Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader, it was widely held that his incompetence would bring him down more quickly than his ideology. But few said the same when Theresa May became Prime Minister. Unexciting she may be, in six years at the Home Office she had proved herself an effective, competent leader and administrator.
Yet this week it is hard to escape the whiff of shambles around much of what the Government does, crystallised by the embarrassing u-turn on the increase in National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed. The Government seemed entirely taken aback by the furore the plan caused, and at times even unaware that they had breached a manifesto commitment. So now, the single biggest revenue raising measure in the Budget has been ditched and we are all supposed to ignore the £2bn black-hole this leaves in the Government’s Budget numbers. Even the timing of the announcement, minutes before Prime Ministers Questions forcing Theresa May on the back foot in the House, did not smack of an orderly and strategic approach to Government communications.
On Brexit too, having briefed heavily last week that Article 50 would be triggered this week, it simply didn’t happen. And it now looks likely to come in the final week of March instead. Having marched her troops to the top of the hill, Theresa May has now hesitated. Whatever your view on Brexit overall, few disagree that the negotiations are perhaps the most complex ever entered into by a British Government. They will require a Government clear in its objectives, with a firm strategic grip, and a good deal of control over policy execution, administration and message. The signals in recent weeks have not been good.