The Abuse of Power: Confronting injustice in public life
Headline, $34.99 pb, 344 pp
It takes some considerable effort to remember Theresa May’s time as prime minister. Her two governments ran from the resignation of David Cameron immediately after the political earthquake of the Brexit referendum in 2016, to May’s own tearful resignation in the summer of 2019 as the aftershocks swallowed her minority government. The distending effects of the past three years of UK (and world) politics have already made the May era a kind of historical curiosity. The consequent danger is that we look back to her stint as prime minister as the last gasp of sensible politics avant le déluge.
This volume, we are assured, is not a political memoir. Readers in search of materials with which to reimagine with cosy nostalgia the world before those twin horsemen of the apocalypse – coronavirus and Boris Johnson – will be disappointed. So too will those who want an unvarnished and melodramatic tale of dastardly misdeeds, mendacious populism, and stage villains getting their just deserts. May has instead set her sights on loftier goals. She largely eschews the opportunities to embroider her own life story or to settle scores. Instead, she sets out, crusader style, to slay injustice in public life.
May almost avoids the juicier opportunities of the political memoir genre. We get a light dusting of autobiographical crumbs. These hit notes well suited to conventional Tory autobiography, and dwell on the ways in which May’s status as a daughter of the rectory subconsciously groomed her for a career in politics. Such slim fare nonetheless establishes her personal virtue and moral incorruptibility. This is the same goody two-shoes whose most explosive confession ahead of the 2017 general election was to having run through wheat fields as a girl.