A Prime Minister in name only, Theresa May has become a puppet being pulled in all directions. Should anyone pull too tightly Theresa’s premiership will come to a sudden end, along with the Conservatives chances at the subsequent snap election. As she struggles to cling on to power, Theresa May risks going down as the worst PM in modern history.
Having lost her slender majority, her closest advisors, and the dominance she once held over the Conservative party, Theresa May now faces unprecedented challenges to remain Prime Minister and guide our country through the toughest peacetime negotiations – Brexit.
To understand where Theresa stands we must analyse who holds the balance of power in government.
Coming out of the election without a majority left the Conservatives vulnerable to a vote of no confidence during the Queen’s speech. Theresa May has been fast to negotiate a deal with the DUP to provide an essential working majority on key votes, including Brexit-based issues. Unfortunately, with weak and wobbly becoming the phrase of the day, the DUP have extracted a steep price for their support. A £1bn settlement for Northern Ireland (NI), with further concessions likely in return for future votes. The DUP afford stability for now however many speculate that by association the DUPs extreme social policy, and the perception of being blackmailed by NI could have a dearer political cost down the line. Even immediately the £1bn settlement has swing voters questioning Theresa’s ‘no magic money tree’ logic, considering the vote against public sector pay increases.
Next in line to pull the strings of power is Ruth Davidson and the renewed Scottish Tory Party. Ruth Davidson led the Scottish Tories to their biggest win since 1983, securing 13 seats and being credited as the only reason Theresa May could return to Number 10. Having been voted for by strong Remain constituencies, Ruth Davidson has already flexed her political muscle by threatening to sink Theresa May’s ‘hard’ Brexit plans.
With the opposite intentions of Ruth’s Scottish rabble, the infamous 1922 committee who represent the views and mood of backbench MPs. For Theresa May that means a group strongly determined to drive through an extreme version of Brexit, going against the views of; Tory moderate MPs, Scottish Conservatives, and front benchers such as Chancellor Phillip Hammond. On domestic issues, Theresa May could face significant rebellion over austerity measures. Given parliamentary arithmetic a group as little as 20 Tory MPs wield the power to push through their demands (if the opposition parties are willing to back them). Theresa May is effectively flanked by two opposing sides, pulling the puppet strings tightly in opposing directions.
Finally, Theresa May is confronted with an empowered group of cabinet ministers. Having sacrificed her heavy-handed advisors Fiona Hill & Nick Timothy, and having lost her aura of competence, the cabinet members have seized considerable power. They have forced Theresa to include them in decision making, they are bold enough to contradict her in the media, and behind her back several will be formulating their own plans to make a grab for power. Although Theresa should take comfort that she may have some support in the cabinet in the form of her new right-hand man Damien Green.
Every day Theresa May remains in power as the weakened Prime Minister she currently is, is another day that Jeremy Corbyn becomes a more credible choice to lead this country. As it stands Corbyn has already surpassed Mrs May in opinion polls on favourability, suitability to be Prime Minister, also commanding a 6-point lead for Labour in voting intention. If she is to have any chance of moving forward Theresa’s must regain a tighter grip over her cabinet members, even risking a reshuffle if one or more members remain uncompliant. A unified leadership team will whip backbenchers to toe the party line, something the Conservatives are historically good at.
Unfortunately, Brexit will remain her achilles heel. Theresa has committed too much to a ‘hard’ Brexit to backdown now without risking the wrath of both her traditional voter base and influential backbenchers. Although as we have just seen this election, backed up by analysis, to the wider electorate and her key allies, her current Brexit stance is deeply unpopular.
Theresa’s team will also have to contend with the reality that they lost the popular vote in every working-age group, with Labour’s anti-austerity platform taking the nation by storm. We’re already seeing evidence of fresh further divisions in the Conservative party, between those who want to drastically ‘modernise’ by adopting Labour-like policy (ending austerity), and those who believe lurching further to the Right is the antidote to Corbynmania. It will take a stroke of political genius to prevent the upcoming Tory civil war, if her recent record of handling crisis (Grenfell Tower) is to go by I predict she will be gone in time for Christmas.