Government on the verge of collapse?
You’d have to be one of the PM’s closest advisors and allies to claim that she’s done particularly well over the past 12 months. Having almost lost what appeared to be an ‘un-losable’ election, Theresa May has been ambling through the latest Brexit negotiations with the demeanour of a hostage.
That is to say, the mannerisms of somebody who doesn’t quite want to be where she is but either sees no choice but to stay there, or is being forced to carry on by a government that sniffs an impending defeat should she walk.
It also begs the question, who on earth would replace her? There was the laughable suggestion from one Brexit supporting Tory donor this week that Michael Gove should replace her, but to the British public they’re more likely to prefer a smiley face drawn on to a paper plate that has been sellotaped to a stick.
Currently on YouGov’s website, the pollsters have Gove as the 1,846th most popular public figure out of a total of 2,311 they track. That’s quite some going.
With all of that in mind, Theresa May currently has a number of headaches that she must overcome to stop her government from collapsing. Odds on an election this year are currently 6/1 according to OddsChecker, whilst one in 2019 is currently as low as 9/4.
Here’s a list of reasons why this government might not even make it to the end of the summer.
Brexit secretary David Davis has, by my count, now threatened to resign three separate times over varying issues. This time it was with regards to the timescale in which the government offers its ‘backstop’ solution to the Irish border problem. Davis argued that not placing a timescale on this arrangement could mean effectively being in the single market in perpetuity, whilst the government struggled to find a way to find something agreeable for the EU negotiating team.
There isn’t space to sufficiently explain the nuances of that specific situation, however, it highlights firstly the complexity of the negotiations, and secondly that some of the most senior figures in charge of it are using toddler tactics to get what they want.
Why is it important? The government are already on paper a thin majority, and have lost 3 key cabinet members to scandal in recent months (Think Priti Patel and Amber Rudd, amongst others).
Another key resignation, especially for a head Brexiteer, could spell open revolt by the back benches and a vote to oust May as the head of the party, probably leading to an election.
Well, it’s a shambles so far and the Lords have made a grand total of 15 amendments to the key Brexit legislation which will be returning to the commons to be debated and voted on by MP’s.
The PM has currently set aside just 12 hours for a marathon session, with MP’s left distinctly unimpressed.
Why does it matter? If the government is defeated and any of these amendments go through there’s a good chance the government will effectively be left useless and a general election will have to be called.
If none of the legislation the government wants to put through can pass thanks to rebellion on the back benches then Theresa May is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.
For any number of reasons the current confidence and supply deal with the DUP of Northern Ireland was probably a miscalculation by May and the Tories.
They’re deeply, deeply conservative socially and have MP’s that are known to be a little controversial. At this moment in time there are two hot topics which aren’t going away and which are set to put May on a collision course with the leader of the DUP Arlene Foster.
Firstly the Irish border issue. Foster, it would seem, is actually quite keen for a hard border to go up between the Republic and Northern Ireland, as they’re unionists and would resist the reunification of Ireland at all costs. This puts May in a tricky position as Foster has made it clear that she would not accept anything that puts Northern Ireland’s relationship with the UK at risk, including putting the border in the Irish sea, as had been originally proposed.
Secondly, abortion rights. The supreme court have just ruled that the law in Northern Ireland breaches European human rights laws, but stopped short of ordering the country to change its laws accordingly. Foster is ardently against abortion and her party are conservative Christian and pro-life.
The current public mood in the north is one that wants to see things change, according to polls, and the recent result in the Republic has made that more likely than ever. Due to the fact that the devolved government in Northern Ireland is currently not sitting due to disputes amongst it’s representatives, there is intense pressure building on Theresa May to push through new laws which would legalise abortion in Northern Ireland, which it seems Foster would not tolerate, and would see her withdraw her support for the Tory government, forcing an election.
These are just the main reasons why it’s difficult to see Theresa May’s government riding the storm out all the way through to the autumn. In truth the government is currently spinning too many plates at the same time with too few people to monitor them.
They’ve got a paper thin majority in parliament at the moment and all it would take is one of the above 3 scenarios to crumble (and it’s likely they will) and we’d be forced back to the ballot box before Christmas.
If you’re a gambler I wouldn’t bet against Jeremy Corbyn entering 10 Downing Street before the New Year.