Tory Wars: Theresa May’s Days Are Numbered
When the PM Theresa May called for a snap general election in April to strengthen her position, no one would have thought that she would be jeopardising her own status and her plans for a hard Brexit.
While Jeremy Corbyn appeared initially unelectable, he emerged as a popular choice, with his focus on the National Health Service, free education and affordable housing. May still won the election, but the result came at a cost. Unable to command parliamentary majority, she has now turned to the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland whose extreme conservativism might blemish the image of Conservatives and unsettle the political landscape.
Despite the fact that they both represent two opposing views, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn correctly pointed out that the election showed us that it wasn’t just about Brexit. Most voters who voted for Brexit and in last Thursday’s election continue to have similar anxieties about the future, the NHS, funding for schools, living standards and the cost of housing. As Corbyn said: “The question now is what sort of Brexit do we want – and what sort of country do we want Britain to be after Brexit?”
Ruth Davidson vs. Theresa May
May has emerged as weak and wobbly, with George Osbourne describing her as a “dead woman walking.” Many of her Tory MPs have asked for her resignation while others are now demanding a Brexit-lite approach to the negotiations. The Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who has won 13 seats in Scotland, has been hailed the “heroine” of the party by former Tory Chancellor George Osborne. The Evening Standard editor told The Andrew Marr Show that “She is the heroine of the party, if she had not won seats in Scotland ... there would not be a Conservative government.”
Davidson has suggested that she will use her increased power to influence the Brexit deal, with the economy and a trade deal being a priority.
Theresa May and DUP deal not finalised
While Theresa May stated that a “confidence and supply” deal was reached with Northern Ireland’s DUP, nothing has yet been finalised. What is worrying, isn’t only the DUP’s extreme views on social, environmental and political issues, but also the diametrically different views it holds in relation to the Conservatives. It appears that this week will be volatile and chaotic, with Jeremy Corbyn also arguing that he can still be PM by challenging the Queen’s speech in parliament on 19 June, which has now been postponed.
Speaking on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, Corbyn said “We are going to put down a substantial amendment to the Queen’s speech which will be the main points of our manifesto, so we will invite the House to consider all the issues we’ve put forward – jobs-first Brexit, policies for young people and on austerity.”
Although, Labour hasn’t established any connections to other parties, it would possibly ask for their support in defeating May’s government and gaining their support for Labour’s manifesto policies. According to the Guardian, in order to pass Labour’s amendments to the Queen’s speech would require the support from rebel Conservative MPs. All this depends on how things unfold within the Conservative Party and with Theresa May’s possible deal with the DUP.
This is why, Corbyn and Labour will also have to wait in order to be able to respond to the kind of arrangement May and the DUP come to. A Labour source told the Guardian that “If they are able to get as far as a Queen’s speech we will amend it to take into account as much of our manifesto programme as possible, deleting, removing the absolute worst aspects of theirs. We feel we can build a parliamentary majority for a whole range of proposals and against a whole range of their ones.”
The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, said Labour is ready to form a minority government if May’s Queen’s speech is unsuccessful. Talking with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Thornberry said: “We’ve got Theresa May squatting in Downing Street. We’ve got a full rebellion going on in the Conservative party. We’ve got no idea as to what’s going to be in this Queen’s speech. They have a manifesto that’s been completely repudiated by the public and indeed by Tory MPs themselves, and no idea what the DUP will agree to or not.”
Silent Reshuffle and Gove’s Shock return
Michael Gove returned to the cabinet as environment secretary after May reshuffled her top team. May’s 2016 rival, Andrea Leadsom, was also given the position of the leader of the House of Commons. The Brexit Secretary David Davis said that Gove was a “formidable” figure in the election campaign and was happy to see him back. Gove told Sky News: “I was quite surprised, I have to say ... I genuinely didn’t expect this role. I am delighted to be part of the government, I am delighted to be able to support Theresa to ensure that we have a government capable of delivering on the people’s wishes.” May stated that Senior cabinet ministers such as Amber Rudd, Philip Hammond, David Davis, Michael Fallon and Boris Johnson will remain in their positions.
1922 Committee meeting
Later today, May will be meeting with Tory backbench MPs at a meeting of the 1922 Committee to discuss the Tory manifesto and the campaign strategy. Also known as “the ’22,” the Conservative Private Members’ Committee, is a parliamentary group in the UK House of Commons. The committee meets weekly whenever the House of Commons is sitting and includes all backbench Conservative MPs. There are 18 members with a chairman, who is usually a senior MP whom is elected by the committee’s members. Since May 2010, the incumbent chairman is Graham Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West.
The committee, which informs the party of the backbenchers’ sentiment and views, is very influential and its chairman oversees the election of a new leader. Losing the ‘22’s confidence as a leader means that one’s position immediately becomes risky and insecure. Ahead of today’s meeting, Brady told Sky’s All Out Politics that May needed to act in a “more collegiate” manner, but he dismissed the possibility of May being replaced.
As he said: “What we are addressing at the moment is the need to cope with the reality of this parliament, to make things work, to try to supply government for the country. I don’t think there is any clamour out there for another general election. Certainly, I don’t see any clamour from my colleagues for a leadership election.”
What happens now?
Given the fact that the Conservatives and the DUP haven’t reached an agreement yet and are still negotiating, the Queen’s speech will be delayed for a few days. Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said that the delay shows the government is in a state of disruption and chaos. Historically, the speech was written on vellum with ink that took three days to dry. Now is written on goatskin parchment paper but it still needs a few days to dry, something that means any last-minute changes are impossible.