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Theresa May is Prime Minister. She should start acting like it

The Prime Minister needs to take her job more seriously and choose her words more carefully.

By Stephen Bush

Who says that you don’t get value for money with Theresa May? Prime Ministers past used to focus on the governing and leave the conspiracy theories to the cranks outside. Now May does both.

In response to a leaked account of working dinner between herself and Jean-Claude Juncker in a German newspaper, Theresa May has accused officials in Brussels of working to influence the election on 8 June.

That’s right: Jean-Claude Juncker, centre-right politician and the poster boy for tax minimisation is in fact hoping for a Jeremy Corbyn victory. And it’s a little known fact that Michel Barnier, minister under Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, paid £25 to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in 2016.

It’s a ludicrous reaction to it all but the short-term politics are great for Theresa May. It gets her face and her message on every paper the morning of the local elections.

“Nuclear Juncker!” roars the Sun. “Hands off our election” shrieks the Mail.  “May declares war on Brussels” is the Guardian‘s splash. “Brussels is meddling in our election, says May” is the Times. “Don’t meddle in our election” wails the Express. “May unleashes fire at Europe” is the Telegraph‘s dramatic take on it all. “May accuses Brussels of election sabotage and ramping up tension” is the FT‘s take.

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Tim Montgomerie puts it best: “Naked electioneering, not based in fact and only likely to make Brexit negotiations trickier”.

The good news is that everyone in the EU has said some silly things to shore up their own political position from time to time. They all live in democracies after all. It’s an opportunity lost to gain some free goodwill by not responding to the leak rather than the cause of more bad blood. More significant yesterday was David Davis continuing to talk sense on Britain’s understanding that we need to pay our outstanding obligations.

The bigger problem is this: is May ever going to want to comment on actual interference in an election, either here or in another country? Considering that we are Public Enemy Number 1 in the Kremlin, considering the cyberattacks on Emmanuel Macron and the high chance of attempted disruption in the German elections, it seems highly likely. Did her speech yesterday mean that intervention will have more, or less weight?

And all of this for political advantage in an election is on course to win by miles.