If the political soothsayers are correct, Theresa May is in the dying days of her stewardship of 10 Downing Street. Whether or not you agree with Mrs May’s politics, it is hard not to feel sorry for her as a human being who has, palpably, done her best as leader of her party and of this country.
Yet, under her leadership it’s said that the Conservative Party is facing its greatest collapse since its inception in 1834. Mrs May herself has taken a shedload of personal humiliation over the past few months, repeatedly being denounced as the worst prime minister in living memory, and the target of an indescribable amount of invective and loathing.
She has sincerely tried, again and again, to fix the Brexit problem, which by anyone’s measure is like a Rubik’s cube: being so many pieces of a puzzle which are seemingly impossible to align.
Earlier this month, BBC Four broadcast a Brussels-based documentary – Brexit: Behind Closed Doors – which openly showed many of the European Union big cheeses laughing and scoffing at the “shambles” of Mrs May’s negotiating team. Guy Verhofstadt, European Parliamentary leader – with lavish use of the f-word when speaking English – poured scorn on the supposed stupidity and incompetence of her team. (It was even claimed that Olly Robbins, Mrs May’s top civil servant, hoped take up Belgian nationality to escape.)
And it all comes back to more humiliation for Mrs May. Most of us must experience failure and disappointments in the course of our lives: we make mistakes, reach bad decisions and make wrong judgments. Ill luck and poor timing can also play their part in such fiascos.
But for Mrs May, failure is so public: she is almost like an image of St Sebastian – metaphorical arrows aimed at her from all directions.
All through her worst times, she’s been photographed regularly attending church with her husband, Philip. He is clearly a source of support to her, and we must hope that she derives fortitude too from her faith.
No one can take away from her the grit and persistence, even valour, she has shown. Yet, it is a painful thing to face the fact that you have done your very best – and still you have been found wanting. Even if Theresa May’s politics don’t command your support, her situation should surely command our compassion.
An American investment bank, the Lehman Brothers, caused the global 2008 recession by filing for the largest bankruptcy in American history. The Lehman bankruptcy nearly brought down international capitalism. Now there’s a play, The Lehman Trilogy, originally written by the Italian Stefano Massini and starring Simon Russell Beale (with Ben Miles and Adam Godley), which recently opened at London’s Piccadilly Theatre.
It’s basically the Lehman family’s story: the three brothers arrived in America from southern Germany in 1844 and began trading in a small way, in Montgomery, Alabama. Their gradual rise to vast wealth mirrors an immigrant experience, encompassing American history, through slavery, the Civil War, industrialisation, the railroads, aviation, the Wall Street crash and into the 21st century.
In the early generations, the brothers were observant Jews, dutifully carrying out their religious duties, shutting up shop for days of kaddish (mourning) and sending their children to Hebrew schools. But there’s an implication that when the Lehmanns became super-rich and the bank moved away from its roots, the religious dimension faded. There’s a sense that previously religious practice had brought reflection and rabbinical guidance to everyday life.
The play has had tremendous success on Broadway (where some tickets cost $2,000) and the London production is heavily booked. But it is due to be “streamed” into cinemas here on July 25 – with tickets at about £20.
A male acquaintance went shopping with his wife when she was choosing a new dress for a special occasion. She appeared in a designer gown whose ticket price somewhat alarmed him.
“Do you like it?” she asked her spouse.
“Well,” he said, “it’s very nice, but probably more suited to an older person than you.”
She returned it to the rack. They’ve been married for more than 40 years and he clearly knows how to make a suggestion with flattery and tact.
Follow Mary Kenny on Twitter: @MaryKenny4
UPDATE: Theresa May announced her resignation the day after this article was originally published
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