May remains in office but not in power

Once again, Theresa May has dodged yet another crisis that has threatened her leadership. However, this time around, she has paid a big political price to maintain her position for at least another year.

It has been widely reported that, in a meeting of the 1922 Committee, Theresa May ruled out leading the Conservative Party into the next general election in 2022. Whilst this may have put some Tories minds at rest enough to prevent a leadership contest, what it will do is an almost immediate push for May to say when she plans on resigning from office.

We saw the exact same pressure when former Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his intention not to serve a fourth term in office. Throughout 2006, the party continually applied pressure on the Prime Minister to announce a timeline for his resignation, distracting from the work of governance and statecraft.

We are about to see this play out in the Conservative Party at a time of great uncertainty and stability for the country, and when the country needs a leader to heal the divide of two years ago.

And it is worth remembering that the events of the last 24 hours have changed nothing. They have not changed the fact that there is still no parliamentary majority for May’s Brexit deal, that the EU is not willing to renegotiate and the opposition parties are not prepared to budge on their positions. 

What happens next is anyone’s guess, but the government will have to put forward the withdrawal agreement to parliament sooner or later and as long as the current situation remains, that will fail to pass. The question then will be what sort of compromise can be reached in parliament, with a Norway-plus arrangement looking like the most feasible.

Theresa May might be breathing a huge sigh of relief tonight, but she remains a Prime Minister with even less authority, in charge of a government with no power. She may be protected for a year from those trying to push her from office, but the vultures are circling and there will be many encouraging her to jump sooner rather than later.

Picture: Flickr, EU2017EE

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