Brexit: Theresa May Outfoxes Aussie Remain Backer in Maidenhead Constituency Surgery

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By Louise Mensch | 12:09 pm, November 27, 2016

A constituent of Theresa May’s who is not British, but has a vote as a resident Commonwealth Citizen, has confronted the Prime Minister after being invited to a face to face discussion with her local MP.

Remain supporter Louise Trethowan was personally invited by the PM to surgery after sending her a letter of complaint. Louise has written up the encounter in a vainglorious post in which she boasts of her own cleverness while often failing to list the Prime Minister’s responses.

As a former MP, though, I can say that nothing I have read in recent months has impressed me more about the Prime Minister than my namesake’s account of her fifteen minutes. It reveals Mrs. May as honest, conscientious, hardworking, humble, plain-talking, constitutionally sensible and absolutely committed to executing the will of the people on Brexit.

It further shows her to be properly cautious, respecting of state secrets, not gossipy, and with a good, strong understanding of the constitution both as MP and PM.

And it shows she has terrific guts.

Firstly, an overview. Louise complained to her MP, the Prime Minister. She got a letter in reply, and when she said this letter was not good enough, she was invited to a face to face surgery. This alone tells me Theresa May’s constituency staff are doing a wonderful job of balancing her MP work with her Prime Ministerial duties. Furthermore, it tells me Theresa is not afraid of confrontation and that she respects constituents enough to talk to them one on one about national policy. Top marks.

Secondly, Theresa shows herself to be unbendingly proper in the face of repeated provocation. She will not give the constituent what that constituent improperly wants:

She asked me if I accepted the result of the Referendum. I replied, “Certainly not!” …..

I asked her that given Maidenhead had voted overwhelmingly for Remain, would she vote against Brexit should she lose in the Supreme Court case? She replied that she was a representative and not a “delegate” and was not obliged to be the voice of her constituents.

I said the people of Maidenhead may find this interesting in the next election. She said anyone who didn’t understand this didn’t understand the role of an MP. I said I thought there were many who didn’t understand this.

Theresa May is, of course, precisely right on this matter and Louise is wrong. On the same score, I can recall multiple of my constituents asking me for my assurance that I would vote against equal marriage, including my constituency association, and I gave them the same reply Mrs. May did. My constituency was overwhelmingly against equal marriage, but they elected me in a representative democracy.  I told those constituents that I would vote for equal marriage for gay people; I told them why; I added that if the death penalty ever came before me I would vote against that too. Very few left those surgeries angry, because I took time to be honest with them. I told my constituents that they had been ‘yes-ed’ to death and let down too often before, and I was not about to say one thing to please them in the room and do another when it came to Westminster.

All MPs have dealt with people just like Louise. In my case, it was folks against fox-hunting or for gay marriage or the death penalty. I have had constituents complain about paying child support, about bird-watching, about cutting benefits and being forced to find jobs. The day after the Government raised tuition fees (I physically climbed over a police cordon to vote for it, as I was kettled in Parliament Square with a bunch of students) I went up to a school in Corby and told a bunch of 17 year olds why I had just voted to impose fees on them and would do it again tomorrow.

Theresa May in this 15 minutes simply shone and Louise Trethowan comes across as pathetically entitled. MPs do not write about individual constituents (or they shouldn’t); the surgery is sacred. But Louise was free to do so and we can be grateful that she has. I will now fisk her account from a former MP’s perspective, having had the inestimable privilege of sitting on the other side of the desk to her. Louise’s account of the surgery here is in quotes, and my comments below.

But after the EU Referendum, I emailed Mrs May to say how concerned I was about the Brexit decision, and my worries about the impact on my small business, a bistro in Poole.

She wrote back to say, “We’re going to bang the drum for Britain!” – yes, she really did write that. I replied that this was a most unsatisfactory response. She then invited me to meet her at her constituency surgery.

I was to have 15 minutes with the Prime Minister.

10/10. Wonderfully handled, Maidenhead can be proud. David Cameron was also a fantastic constituency MP by all accounts.

My first impression was that she seemed very cold for someone who relies on votes to keep her job. Really, she could do with going to charm school.

Er, OK Louise, thanks for your patronising assessment there; I’d say Theresa can do without your version of ‘charm’. A plain-talking PM and MP beats a smarmy suck-up for most of us.

I opened with my concerns about racism at the top of government. She refuted this robustly.

Reassuring. Of course Theresa refuted it. It’s nonsense.

But I reminded her of statements such as, “British jobs for British workers” and “British doctors would be better for the NHS” and of course Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, calling for companies to produce lists of their foreign workers.

Not made by Theresa May, not made by Theresa May or for that matter the Leave campaign, who rightly said that foreign doctors needed to be of the same standard as UK ones and to have a perfect grasp of English.

With the last sentence, however, Louise does have a point, and I am glad to see my friend Amber has backed off that mistaken promise. Even the best governments can make early mistakes, and Theresa and Amber, both for Remain in the EU Referendum, were, I imagine, overcompensating.

Mrs May went on about wanting to ensure that UK companies were investing in UK workers. But I replied, “If I advertised for a British employee, I’d be very rightly on the sharp end of the Equality Act.” She had to agree with that.

“She had to agree with that” implies a concession. Translation: this is a truism, and Theresa agreed with it; I didn’t make any kind of clever point here, but I’d like to pretend I did.

I then presented Mrs May with a copy of the EU Referendum ballot paper. “Where on here does it say we were voting to reduce the number of EU citizens in the UK?” I asked. “Well it doesn’t,” she replied. “But the government has reports that the level of immigration is a concern.” I asked for references, which she couldn’t provide.

The last sentence is guff. No doubt Theresa referred her to polling or to complaints to government, of which there are legion. I myself received and passed on innumerable concerns about immigration as an MP to the government. Theresa and all MPs will have had the same directly. Not the most Remain of MPs would deny it.

Then, I produced an infograph showing that EU workers added more to the economy than they cost. She didn’t appear impressed

Love this woman. Wait – she wasn’t impressed by your “infograph”? Say it ain’t so!

She emphasised, not just strongly but crossly, that “the British people have voted for Brexit and the government is committed to making it happen” and started pointing at my face across the narrow desk.

I asked her to please not point at my face as I considered it rude. “People point at me all the time,” she replied. “Indeed,” I responded, “it’s rude, so please refrain.”

I can see Theresa’s exasperation and amusement as we write. Random Australian punter produces cartoon graphics and hectors about a decision by and for Britons. Then wants a “safe space” from emphatic pointing. Fantastic. Louise has the right to vote as a Commonwealth citizen, I have no idea why. We should get rid of it. Here in the USA as a legal resident with a green card, I have no right to vote. My opinion? Not a citizen, you should not be able to vote.

I then presented her with a pie chart with voting numbers showing that only 37% of the electorate voted for Brexit, which was not the majority of “British people”. She didn’t really have an answer for that.

Translation: the Prime Minister explained to me that the majority of voters get to win in elections, and that you don’t need the majority of possible voters who can’t be arsed, and that folks have every right to choose to abstain, and that “abstain” and “remain” are not in fact the same thing.

I told her that I shouted at the tele when I heard her say that “the British people have spoken” when it was really only 37%.

Haha. I can see Theresa’s eyes glancing subtly up to the clock on the wall of her constituency office at that point.

She asked me if I accepted the result of the Referendum. I replied, “Certainly not!”

At this point, Theresa is showing extraordinary patience. The question is also designed to test whether the constituent in front of one is open to reasoned argument, and will determine whether the MP spends time trying to convince them, or instead assumes that the person in front of them is a campaigner who simply wants to write an angry letter to his or her local paper.

When Louise said ‘certainly not’ to this question, Theresa will have written her off entirely and will have determined to simply sit through the remainder of this appointment.

We then spoke about my personal concerns about Brexit. In addition to my day job as a Human Resources Manager, my husband and I own a bistro with an EU citizen chef. She could not, however, guarantee EU citizens’ the right to remain in Britain after Brexit.

I emphasised my concerns about the increased costs of food and wine for my bistro following the fall in the value of the pound. She started talking about exports, but I replied that I couldn’t export the steak and frites we cook in the bistro. I needed assurances from the Prime Minister. “We will ensure a strong economy” was all she could do.

She said, “We’re going to get the best deal.” I said, “That’s a hope, not an action.”

I gave the analogy that the Brexit “best deal” rhetoric was like me saying I want the “best holiday” without knowing where I was going, how much it would cost, how I’d get there or where I’d stay. Mrs May replied that the government would not give details of their negotiations.

Theresa May increasingly impresses. First, she is allowing her constituent significance and letting her express her ‘personal concerns’ to which she is listening. Second, she gives Louise no space to say that her ‘personal concerns’ were unheard. Thirdly, she counters with standard government talking points, and is politely refuting all attempts to gain some special knowledge from the situation. Theresa is just straight-batting all these limp deliveries away. I imagine her tone to be polite and factual.

I reminded her that Donald Tusk, President of the EU Council, said there’d be either “hard Brexit or no Brexit” and I was inclined to agree. Mrs May responded, “I am sure I have more experience in negotiating in Europe than you do!” I said that arrogance was not helpful.

Hahahaa. “I was inclined to agree”. Theresa has gently put Louise in her place here. Her ‘agreement’ with Tusk is utterly irrelevant and indeed laughable and Theresa does slightly laugh at it. She could have been much harsher but is too polite for that.

I then showed her a screen shot of Boris Johnson’s speech the day after the Referendum when he said that we could still live, work, study and retire in the EU. Could she clarify the Foreign Secretary’s comments as clearly this was not going to be true. She blustered and said, “He wasn’t Foreign Secretary then”. But I wasn’t sure what difference that made..

That is because Louise appears to misunderstand the notion of collective responsibility in government, to which Boris had not then been appointed. I note also that Boris meant that Brexit does not mean automatic expulsion either way, and he is correct on that too.

Also, can you imagine Louise’s props? We have an “infographic” a “pie chart” and a “screenshot”. I applaud Theresa’s infinite patience as this idiot whipped out her iphone and made the PM look at it.

By this point I knew we’d probably never be friends. I asked her that given Maidenhead had voted overwhelmingly for Remain, would she vote against Brexit should she lose in the Supreme Court case? She replied that she was a representative and not a “delegate” and was not obliged to be the voice of her constituents.

I said the people of Maidenhead may find this interesting in the next election. She said anyone who didn’t understand this didn’t understand the role of an MP. I said I thought there were many who didn’t understand this.

Hhaahahahahaha (breath) hahaahahahahaha where to start. Safe seat, correct PM, pathetic threat to MP that literally every MP gets in surgeries from annoyed constituent when you won’t give them what they want. “I said the people of Maidenhead may find this interesting in the next election.” Oh aye, I’m sure Theresa was proper bricking herself. Genuinely chuckled when I first read this line.

Time was up. I finished by telling her there was a huge groundswell of opposition to Brexit.

But I don’t think she’s listening. She’s arrogant and extremely defensive. She also looked very tired. In my years of ‘people watching’ as an HR Manager, I’d say she is very much out of her depth.

“In my years of ‘people watching’ as an HR manager, I’d say that the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland with the sky-high polling and approval rating and 20 years in Parliament is very much out of her depth.”

Come back Ricky Gervais, we have a female lead for your next reboot of ‘The Office’.

Final score: Maidenhead 5, Australia 0.