Why Theresa May plays so much better at the school gates than mulish Jeremy Corbyn

Theresa May
Women know a safe and diligent pair of hands when they see one Credit: Andy Rain/EPA

I had a political epiphany the other evening when I was wandering round Ikea with a card-carrying leftie friend. Don’t judge me; she needed lightbulbs, I needed a night out. 

Anyway, we were idling a few minutes over chopping boards when it dawned on me why so many women voters are appalled by the prospect of a Labour victory.

“You know why I hate Jeremy Corbyn?” my friend suddenly fumed. “I hate him because he is just like my dad.”

Now, I’ve met her father and he seems perfectly amiable, if a bit of a military history bore who has no interest in any one else’s opinions, regardless of how much more they know about a subject. He once told a UN ambassador that he didn’t know what he was talking about.

The Labour leader is of an ilk that most women can instantly recognise. And not in a good way

Standard dad stuff, really. He has also been wearing the same corduroy jacket since the Relief of Mafeking. Maybe that was the clincher?

“No!” she cried. “Well, maybe, yes. The clothes are just the outward sign of how much he hates change and never deviates from what he knows. You can see panic in his eyes if my mother says the day’s plans have changed.

“He isn’t a bad person, just a tunnel-visioned, stubborn old booby who looks at the world through a rear view mirror.”

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I don’t think Boris Johnson himself could have skewered inveterate vest-wearer Corbyn more decisively, but then the Labour leader is of an ilk that most women can instantly recognise. And not in a good way.

In short, he’s the sort of curmudgeonly dogmatist we dread our husbands ossifying into; at once irritable, peevish and self righteous. It’s an age thing. People become more concentrated versions of themselves; in the US  “irritable male syndrome” had been used to describe Donald Trump’s tetchy Tweets.

If you are under 30, look away now. You young people have no business hearing that even the naughtiest bad boy will eventually start nagging about why you’ve left crumbs on the worktop and grumpily question why he always has to put the bins out.

Corbyn is the sort of curmudgeonly dogmatist we dread our husbands ossifying into; at once irritable, peevish and self righteous

You don’t have to watch a One Foot in the Grave boxset to know there are legions of long-suffering women everywhere, whose days are dedicated to smoothing the feathers their tactless, thoughtless spouse invariably ruffles, rather like Diane Abbott trailing into radio studios in her boss’s wake saying “What Jeremy means is....”

What Jeremy usually means is that he’d like to turn the clock back, unplug the interweb, bring back coal mining and resurrect the DDR, but as he is incapable of thinking on his feet he usually just glowers with self righteousness reminsicent of those photographs of an outraged JD Salinger bearded in his hermit’s retreat.

Meanwhile, Theresa Maybot might never headline at the Comedy Store, but women instinctively know a safe and diligent pair of hands when they see one – and above all need them. We don’t want a shambling Momentum stooge. But nor do we want oleaginous charisma – God knows we’ve had a bellyful of the clubbable, born-to-rule set braying their way up the greasy pole.

Theresa Maybot might never headline at the Comedy Store, but women instinctively know a safe and diligent pair of hands when they see one – and above all need them

We want someone who pores over the small print, who thinks long and hard instead of inventing policy on the hoof and who has a social conscience. Women like a social conscience because we are the ones who experience life at the business end; once the working day is over we still have hatches, matches, dispatches and wraparound Sandwich generation care to juggle.

May appeals to my circle, right and left, because she possesses the single most important characteristic that Corbyn lacks. That quality is pragmatism. Politics is famously the art of the possible and a Prime Minister must accordingly adapt to the world as it is, not as she or he would wish it to be.

 Jeremy Corbyn in King's Cross Credit: London News Pictures

Corbyn, forever harking back, is not a man to safeguard Britain’s future or even present a cohesive vision of it. Nor, I suspect, is he anything like the laid-back man of the people-cum-right-on feminist that his backers claim him to be; I can’t (shan’t, won’t) ever forget his insulting proposal that the way to ensure women’s safety on trains was to corral them on their own in a special carriage, curtailing their freedom rather than tackling the perpetrators.

Polls published this week have highlighted his personal unpopularity among voters and revealed him to be an electoral liability. The term used in the New Statesman was “toxic to voters”, but Corbyn’s head is too far down in the sand to take a long hard look at anything as inconvenient as the facts. 

Corbyn has not led an effective Shadow Cabinet. I doubt he could assemble an Ikea kitchen cabinet

My Labour-voting friends (and indeed my husband) are at the point of hand-wringing despair, especially those who have hard-working Labour MPs who deserve to be returned to Westminster, because any vote for Labour becomes a de facto endorsement of its leader.

I happen to believe that a lame duck Opposition is in nobody’s interests; one party rule (Nicola Sturgeon take note) is always a bad idea and inevitably erodes democracy. But Corbyn has not led an effective Shadow Cabinet. I doubt he could assemble an Ikea kitchen cabinet.

That he would rather preside over the potential annihilation of the party he leads than step down says all we need to know about the man. Intransigence can be construed as steadfastness in a young man.

In a 67 year-old it is the expression of mulish inflexibilty. Women don’t want it in a husband and we certainly won’t vote for it at the ballot box.