Old Ma May’s Court: All Around, There is Treachery, 2016–2019 (2024)

The Prime Ministerial Court: Conservative Statecraft in the Twenty-First Century

R A W Rhodes

Published:

2024

Online ISBN:

9780191957031

Print ISBN:

9780192866202

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The Prime Ministerial Court: Conservative Statecraft in the Twenty-First Century

R A W Rhodes

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R A W Rhodes

R A W Rhodes

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Pages

95–154

  • Published:

    June 2024

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Rhodes, R A W, 'Old Ma May’s Court: All Around, There is Treachery, 2016–2019', The Prime Ministerial Court: Conservative Statecraft in the Twenty-First Century (Oxford, 2024; online edn, Oxford Academic, 5 June 2024), https://doi.org/10.1093/9780191957031.003.0004, accessed 11 June 2024.

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Abstract

The chapter focuses on the ‘backstage’ politics of decision-making in May’s elite network. It provides a systematic description of her court ‘in action’ between 2016 and 2019. It shows that both insiders and outsiders recognize there was a court and I identify the core members of the court. Drawing on a thematic analysis of insider accounts, I describe the practices of the court especially knavery or the ways in which the court practiced the black arts. The specific topics include the Prime Minister (PM)’s craft, narratives, reshuffles, resignations, and leadership challenges, the political games of barons and in parliament, cabinet and executive networks, and the feuds in the court between ministers, advisers, and civil servants. There was knavery at every turn. There is much evidence of betrayal, revenge, lying, scandals, and bullying with such machinations oiled by gossip, humour, alcohol, and leavened with harassment in its several guises. The chapter has a short case study of the court in action; namely, the 2017 General Election manifesto. It concludes with a discussion of the governmental, electoral, and personal consequences of court politics. From the 2017 election onwards, May was in office but not in power, ruled by her own wayward cabinet and events, unable to enact her Brexit legislation. No court can compensate for a weak PM. If anything, the court supported introverted, secretive decision-making. It helped her to endure. It was one of her few sources of support as she staggered blindly from one crisis to the next. She could neither march her troops up the hill nor down again. Truly a 7failure of statecraft.

Keywords: court politics, statecraft, political elites, Establishment, ethnography, British Government, Prime Minister, cabinet, knavery, Theresa May

Subject

UK Politics Political Behaviour State and Local Government Political Methodology

Collection: Oxford Scholarship Online

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