Naked Politics Blogger
Setting The Scene
People were always going to wonder how long Theresa May would survive as Prime Minister with a minority government aided by the DUP. However, with recent developments, this question has never been more pertinent. The Labour party have attained an 8-point lead in the first opinion polls released since the general election; there have been leaks from ministers and infighting from her cabinet and backbench MPs have been angered. With pressures to resign from some members of her own party mixed in with calls for another general election, which could result in her anticipated downfall, perhaps time is running out for May…
Nevertheless, the Prime Minister appears confident that she can last the five years of her term with effectively a majority of twelve. This will only happen if she can keep her party united. But with the problems she is encountering and being described as a “dead woman walking” by George Osborne, is it only a matter of time before a fragmented party turn on her?
A Dead Woman Walking?
Many people would have suspected that Theresa May would resign after the failures of the 2017 General Election. However, months on she is still standing. But it hasn’t been plain sailing with problems constantly arising, and this certainly isn’t being aided by her party, which is also piling on the pressure.
Recently, there have been revelations that cabinet ministers have been scheming either against the PM or each other as they wait for her ‘inevitable’ downfall. This has resulted in the PM attempting to instill some discipline in the party telling her MPs at a summer party to stop “backbiting” and “carping”. This was followed up with a cabinet meeting on Tuesday reminding ministers of their duties towards the national interest rather than their personal ones before the summer recess. Although, this was reciprocated by Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon who spoke at an event held by think tank Policy Exchange calling for ministers to show military values of “loyalty, cohesion and discipline”, such disunity is significant.
One important criteria Theresa May requires and at this moment lacks, is discipline and unity in her party. With a slim majority of twelve, May needs every MP to be united so the government can pass legislation throughout her five year premiership. Party unity is crucial otherwise it can result in party rebellions or in one of the more extreme outcomes, a vote of no confidence being triggered against the PM.
Nevertheless, the fact that there is such discord at the heart of the party within two months of her re-election does not fill me with the confidence to believe that she will be able to withstand the pressures she faces.
If anything can keep the PM in her job it would be Conservative fears of the potential alternative to May: Jeremy Corbyn. Conservative backbenchers, fearful of this potential reality, have been supportive of her, especially with recent polls from YouGov suggesting that it could result in a potential Labour majority. Vice President of the backbench 1922 Committee Charles Walker, stated that they would support any decision to sack ministers who focused on their personal ambitions, giving May some respite.
Moreover, with Brexit negotiations ongoing, another general election would weaken the UK’s position in the negotiations even more so than the 2017 General Election already has, making it irrational, for one party at least. This gives May time to turn her situation around. Brexit negotiations are to end in March 2019 and with the more centrist approach she has recently taken due to the pressures put on her, this might give her two years to change the harsh image she has created for herself and help her regain some of the support the recent manifesto and election campaign lost her.
It is unlikely that Theresa May can last all five years of her premiership. One of her only hopes to achieve such a feat is if she can stop such infighting and maintain support from her backbenchers. Perhaps, with Brexit negotiations ongoing, there is hope that Theresa May can turn things around and regain the support she once had from both the electorate and MPs. However, none of this cannot be achieved without the unity, stability and discipline of her party who, as of this moment, are anticipating and preparing for her downfall…