Today’s resignation speech from prime minister Theresa May has finally put paid to all the speculation about the timing of her departure, as she announced she will depart on 7 June, after the D-day commemorations and President Trump’s official visit, as the curtain comes down on what was a turbulent two years in the wake of her lost majority in June 2017.
While her durability hasn’t been in question, her competence and limitations certainly have been. It is also true she has tried her best to get the best deal possible, albeit through a very narrow view of what she thought Brexit should look like.
As she stood there, and finally admitted defeat, it would have taken someone with a heart a stone not to feel a little bit sorry for her. Dealt a lousy hand, she added to her problems by making serious mistakes in her approach when it became clear she had no majority for the type of Brexit that would be able to make it past MPs in the House of Commons, let alone her own MPs, who have shown all the discipline and cohesion of a children’s playgroup, these past two years.
They say the England football manager is the 'impossible job', but I would imagine the Conservative party leader and UK prime minister runs a close second in these fractious times.
By not reaching out to more moderate MPs outside her party, she might have been able to reach out beyond the Labour front bench, who showed little interest in making her job any easier in trying to get a Brexit deal through parliament. In any case a new leader is likely to face the same parliamentary arithmetic that stymied Mrs May, which means that the possibility of a new general election remains real.
The general assumption is that Boris Johnson will make it on to the final ticket to be voted on by the Conservative party membership. This might not be the done deal people presume, given that Boris is quite toxic to some MPs still within the party, and he could find that some MPs try and block his attempts to get on the ticket.
The opposition parties will also no doubt trot out their demands for a new election, though any keenness to hold one is likely to be tempered by how badly the Conservative and Labour party do when the European election results are announced on Sunday. A good showing for the Brexit party could also complicate matters in terms of optics as it might prompt EU leaders to perceive the UK is a lost cause, and reinforce President Macron’s view that the UK should be cut loose in October. On the other had a good Lib Dem showing might offer EU leaders a chink of sunlight that another extension might prompt a change of heart, or the possibility of another vote.
The next few weeks should offer an insight into whether the Conservative party can hold together around a new leader, particularly if that leader is Boris Johnson. In any case what shouldn’t be forgotten in all of this, is that in the absence of another election, or referendum, a no-deal Brexit still remains the current default position.
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