The description of how Theresa May handled the demise of the child sex abuse panel – reported by me on Exaro at the weekend- shows the ruthless home secretary at her most combative and courteous rolled into one.
Determined to put months of indecision and two mistaken chair appointments behind her- she took the most radical and surgical action she could do. She sacked the lot of the panel and started again. She had already.heavily hinted in her letter to the panel last year that this could happen. But she softened the blow with pleasantries and hand shakes and some genuine kind words.Never have so many people been so thoroughly stuffed in such a courteous way.
This streak of ruthlessness is why Theresa May is now a serious contender for the leadership of the Tory Party.You can read a good profile of her here by Guardian journalist Gaby Hinscliff. Her famous statement that they were the ” nasty party ” may have stuck a sour note with some supporters. But she know how to be nasty and nice simultaneously.
She made sure they didn’t feel the blame ” You have done nothing wrong” she told them. But she didn’t spare them the pain – they heard they were going in shocked silence.She said they could re-apply but I will be amazed if any do. And it was followed up with the disclosure after they left that Ben Emmerson, the QC to the inquiry, was staying and a tough email warning everybody on the panel to shut up or be sued.
In three months time there will be a general election. David Cameron may or may not win.But Theresa May already has her eye on the leadership. She is not yet in poll position – but she is making sure she will be a challenger by secretly organising the ground work and also instructing her staff to keep very quiet about who will support her..Not even to tell a soul over a drink in the pub – so I hear.
Then I suspect her track record at the home office will be a big issue – taking on the police, setting up this child sex abuse inquiry and taking hard lines on popular right-wing issues like immigration.
If anyone knows how to wield a knife – while being kind and courteous to the victim – Theresa knows. David Cameron better watch his back.