I tried a thought experiment today. I tried to feel sorry for Theresa May.
I tried to understand her as a woman and as a human being who has – by any reckoning – been through a torrid time, ending in very public humiliation.
It wasn’t easy.
Primarily, of course, it wasn’t easy because of her appalling record as a politician, particularly the creation of the Hostile Environment policy which has devastated countless families and led to misery for tens of thousands.
It’s pretty difficult to look beyond the sheer ongoing awfulness of that. But I tried.
The second barrier I found was that I don’t really know who Theresa May is. It’s hard to feel sorry for someone when you have no real understanding of what makes them tick. Beneath the veneer, she is hard to work out.
There is one level where I can understand her – as a constituency MP. If you follow her on social media you will see she never appears happier than when she is in her constituency attending community events like church fetes and flower shows. She appears relaxed and comfortable.
In contrast, as Prime Minister she appears stiff and uncomfortable. Despite her tears as she announced her resignation, it always seemed to me she was anything but happy in the role.
Perhaps part of that was about being surrounded by dreadful backstabbing men. I could feel sympathy for her in that respect, were it not for the fact that she allowed herself to be surrounded by them.
I could also feel some level of sympathy for her desire to deliver Brexit, surprisingly enough. From her perspective England voted for Brexit, so England had to Brexit. (I say England because I don’t believe Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have ever played any real part in her considerations.)
When she said she saw it as her duty to deliver what people had voted for I believe her. It explains why she kept plodding on, to the point where she lost all credibility. I suspect that sense of duty, as she sees it, is a big part of what makes her tick.
But so determined was she to do her duty that she sacrificed everything she had worked for, destroyed her reputation and, most importantly, sailed the UK even further up Shit Creek without a paddle.
Her real duty should have been to turn the boat around and fix the mess caused by David Cameron’s gamble that he could lance the poison in the Tory party with a referendum on leaving the EU. She failed.
In the end she was someone who should never have been Prime Minister. Her reputation – such as it was – was built on her record as Home Secretary. But, really, how hard is it to be a Tory Home Secretary? Just bash immigration and be tough on crime. Sorted.
She lacked the vision and strength to be a leader, particularly at a time when real leadership was required to get the UK out of the mess it had got itself into. Perhaps deep down she knew that but she couldn’t see a way out that didn’t entail someone like Boris Johnson potentially getting the keys to Number Ten. But that’s what has happened anyway.
I genuinely wish her well for her future. I would like to think she would stay on as a backbencher and be able to spend more time at flower shows in Maidenhead. The life of a backbench MP is more rewarding than many. But she will probably end up stepping down and getting a series of lucrative consultancies. That’s the kind of thing Tories do. It continues to allow them to immure themselves from real life and the consequences of their policies.
And in the end that is why, try as I might, I can’t really feel sorry for her at all.