Theresa Mays portrait is so appealing it makes me forgive her faults almost

Logo The GuardianThe Guardian
2023-09-06 15:23:51  • 4 mins

An abiding curiosity of recent British political history is the speed at which recently loathed leaders become more palatable in light of their abysmal replacements. If Boris Johnson seemed the worst prime minister in every conceivable category, Liz Truss perhaps her major achievement in government found new ways to unseat him.

Theresa May, considered reliably awful for most of her three-year tenure, appears a model of sanity compared to her successors. As a measure of this, the unveiling this week of a portrait of May triggered not the gag reflex of yore but something almost like warmth. My first thought, on seeing the painting, was that if I didnt know who she was, I would totally hang that on my wall.

Kudos must go to the artist, Saied Dai, who has seemingly done the impossible and imbued the former prime minister whose greatest admirers couldnt accuse her of having an inspirational leadership style with an air that appears almost noble. The portrait, due to be hung in Portcullis House, combines a Bloomsbury-era vibe of sharp angles and sludgy colours with what feels like a Napoleonic cross-body positioning of Mays arm. Her expression has more depth and humour to it than any one can summon from memory. Look at me, she appears to be saying. Dont seem so terrible now, do I? Suckers.

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