The Tory Party is teetering on the brink of collapse. MPs are bitterly divided and Cabinet Ministers are briefing against the Government. On the record.
Theresa May is finally putting her foot down. Until now she’s been fudging her way through the Brexit negotiations, doing whatever she can to keep both sides of her party happy.
But time is running out. She has to start ruffling feathers, but she’s treading on a thin line and can’t afford to stray away from it.
If she pushes for too hard a Brexit she risks losing support from her closest Cabinet allies and being left without solutions to crucial issues such as the Irish border.
If she pushes for too soft a Brexit, she risks facing a coup from Brexiteer MPs. They’re not afraid of stirring up trouble. Cabinet Ministers like Gove and Johnson have been threatening the Prime Minister publicly. This is not normal.
However, it’s this distinct lack of normality that arguably keeps May in office. In ‘normal’ times, a Prime Minister facing this much criticism within their own party would be long gone. So why is May still in office?
The difference here is that her job is a hugely unappealing one.
Our country is in a mess and it’s unlikely that any leader trying to clean up will be left with much hope of a long and popular tenure. If Brexit goes badly, her party know she can act as metaphorical kitchen roll, soaking up the toxic blame, before being discarded and leaving them slightly cleaner from the blame.
You’d expect the opposition to be wiping the floor with her; but despite the infighting, scandals, and general chaos, the Tories are managing to keep up with Labour in the polls, which does make it harder for anyone launching a leadership contest to attack May.
If anything brings her down, it’ll be Brexit. Europe has always been the issue that divides the Tory party, and that isn’t gonna change any time soon.
There is definitely a threat from Brexiteers in her party, but it’s almost impossible to tell how real that threat is. I think I’m safe to say Theresa May will probably still be Prime Minister for her Cabinet meeting in Chequers this Friday, but further in the future than that I really couldn’t tell you.
Chequers means crunch time. The inevitable weight of tension in that country estate will give a whole new meaning to the word crunch. These big cabinet meetings in far away places give the government a chance to open the cans of worms and try to create a united UK position to take to the next, and potentially last, EU negotiation session.
Chequers will somewhat be the defining event. If Theresa May can emerge with a more united cabinet, she will likely make it through to 2019. On the other hand, if it ends in anger and resignations, it could cause an uprising leading to a leadership contest.
But if there was a contest, would May win?
This is becoming somewhat a theme in this article but the only realistic answer is – maybe. The Sunday Times reported that Theresa May will fight any challengers rather than resigning.
She would only have to win by one vote, which is not at all an unrealistic expectation. Assuming the challenger was a Brexiteer, May would get all the remain backing and plenty of centre-ground Tories.
There’s nothing inevitable about Theresa May’s leadership coming to an end, there’s just not really much confidence in her. For better or for worse, May is notoriously good at hanging on. If she treads carefully, there is definitely scope for her to see through the Brexit negotiations.
Contrarily, she could be gone next week. I really can’t call it. Anything is possible.