Theresa May just had the worst day of any British Prime minister in arguably 70 years, the last time a treaty was voted down. As you no doubt know, she pulled the vote on her Withdrawal Agreement, an admission that it would have been defeated by a catastrophically large margin.
Yet Labour did not introduce a motion of no confidence, presumably because it knew it did not have the votes. And May has departed for the Continent to have a round of meetings with EU leaders, even though they have already announced that they are not going to entertain changes to the pact.
I have decided to call #EUCO on #Brexit (Art. 50) on Thursday. We will not renegotiate the deal, including the backstop, but we are ready to discuss how to facilitate UK ratification. As time is running out, we will also discuss our preparedness for a no-deal scenario.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) December 10, 2018
How long May lasts will determine how Brexit plays out. If she is not dispatched quickly after Monday’s epic defeat, it’s a strong indicator she will continue on into and probably though January, and conceivably even longer, despite being reduced to zombie-level effectiveness.
As we indicated, despite the widespread loss of faith in May, and even with May’s razor thin coalition majority, no or not enough Tory MPs are willing to break ranks to vote with Labour, which unless the Tories and DUP could coalesce around a new prime minister, would result in a General Election that could put Labour in power. That is anathema. And the 1922 process means if the Tories can rally round a replacement for May, they can do so without risking a General Election.
But May has been lurching from disaster to disaster, yet she is still in charge. The impediment to her ouster has been the lack of an alternative that the MPs could stomach. Boris Johnson has been eagerly presenting himself a a contender since Cameron’s resignation, but he remains too toxic for too many. Rees-Mogg is dim and even more of an Ultra’s Ultra, so that rules him out. Gove has been lurking in the wings since doing less well than Boris in the post-Cameron contest. Javid has made his interest clear, but my impression (and reader input is very much appreciated) his limited ministerial experience and his lean and hungry look make him a long shot.
The thin leadership pickings reflect the diminished state of the political classes in the UK, compounded by the fact that only an egotist desperate to become Prime Minister, someone deeply in denial about the poor options available, or a martyr would seek to run the country now.
Having said that, a push is on in the Tory ranks to scotch May. From The Sun:
Livid Tory MPs have vowed to mount a fresh coup to oust Theresa May after her Brexit deal stood on the verge of collapse. Party grandees are already looking at speeding up a snap leadership contest after she dramatically pulled the landmark Commons vote….
Members of the backbench European Research Group of Tory MPs banged the table in approval last night when told more letters for a no-confidence vote were submitted. Rebels are understood to be five short of the 48 needed to trigger a ballot on her future. The Sun can also reveal grandees are considering shortening a leadership contest to less than three weeks. Senior Tories who had previously refused to join an earlier coup were weighing up their actions.
If you read the entire article, you can see that a distressing number of Tories are carrying on about negotiating a better deal with the EU. And this was the considered view of ConservativeHome the day before May’s retreat from
Moscow the vote:
Conservative MPs put in 48 letters, and the party has to have a confidence vote in the Prime Minister. If 48 letters go in, this would require a swift vote of confidence, where May must win more than 50 per cemt of the 315 eligible MPs. If she lost, the party then has to elect a new leader. Given the incredibly short timescale before 29th March, the Conservative Party would be signing its own death warrant to do this.
Recall that if May were to survive this challenge, it could not be attempted again for another 12 months. And vlade pointed out another risk:
One thing I’m not entirely sure is what happens if there’s a leadership challenge and May loses.
Because if someone like Boris/JRM is voted in as a leader, there are Tory MPs which will bolt. Which likely would mean that the newly elected leader would risk a GE if they wanted to be PM right away, so could well be a very short-lived PMship.
So I suspect, they could wait till after Brexit, unless they could see a chance of say A50 revocation, when sinking the government with the chaos in between could very well be their plan to avoid that.
As The Sun indicated, it’s the Ultras who are front and center in this rebellion and they are sure to try to install a more radical PM, so vlade’s concerns are valid.
If a party confidence vote does not come soon, it’s hard to see what May could do to get herself turfed out. And if May were to survive, her position would be strengthened despite her abysmal performance.
May’s plan, to the extent she has one, is disturbingly reminiscent of the strategy of the Greek government in the 2015 bailout negotiations: playing chicken. May is determined to produce a Brexit, and she is confident that it would wind up being hers rather than a no deal. She is running out the clock on the hope that fear of a crash out will lead the EU to relent on the backstop or Parliament to approve her pact. She’s not entertaining a second referendum or Article 50 revocation or any path to Remain. Recall the Telegraph revealed what her possible fallback is: a referendum that does not have Remain as a choice.
Faced with a Brexit vote she can’t win, Theresa May appears to be gambling that running down the clock to a no-deal departure might change the arithmetic in Parliament.
A Cabinet ally of May’s, speaking on condition of anonymity, put the prime minister’s strategy more charitably, saying that if the deal can’t go through then the only option is to keep talking — to EU leaders, in the hope they might offer something more, and to lawmakers, in the hope they might ask a little less.
So May has a path she is doggedly pursuing. And if she continues to beat the odds and stay in charge, she will limit the options to her deal versus no deal. Not the the UK public will be happy with that.