Today, Thursday May 23, could be D-Day for Theresa May.
The UK goes to the polls once again, this time in the European Elections, and both the Conservatives and Labour are expected to take something of a kick in from the Brexit Party and other niche concerns.
And that, allied to the resignation of Andrea Leadsom yesterday, could spell disaster for the prime minister.
It always causes suspicion when a key ally of the PM quits, and the accusations of a rat deserting the sinking ship springs to mind. Leadsom knows that the Tories face one of their most dismal days at the polls in history, and as somebody who has made her desire to be Prime Minister her resignation strikes of somebody trying to save face and distance herself from the fallout.
Fury at New Brexit Bill
Leadsom and many of her fellow Conservative Party members are furious with May as she appeared to go with cap in hand to Remain voters in her latest Brexit withdrawal bill.
The new Brexit deal contains items designed to garner cross-party support, with the PM looking to put the divorce bill to bed once and for all.
- An offer of a second referendum, under certain conditions, to the Labour Party.
- Plans for a customs union on exiting the EU
- Changes to employment rights laws
These proposals have gone down very badly in her own party, with the numbers of ministers set to vote against her Withdrawal Bill ‘continuing to rise, according to the Daily Mail.
That includes the loss of support from Sajid Javid and Penny Mordaunt, two increasingly influential members of the Conservative Party who have, relatively speaking, shown their support to the PM in the past.
Others, such as Michael Gove, believe the proposals have no chance of passing the vote in early June, and so the deal should be pulled to avoid further embarrassment.
The 1922 Committee, a faction of key Conservative ministers, has already confirmed that they have met to discuss the prime minister’s future. They surveyed members on whether a no confidence vote will be passed once again, which could remove May from 10 Downing Street. The votes are in a sealed envelope, and apparently this won’t be opened unless the PM does not announce her resignation prior to June 10.
And speculation has been rife about the Prime Minister addressing her future with the news that she will meet Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, on Friday – just 12 hours or so after the Tories likely disaster in the European Elections.
As one Conservative MP told The Guardian on Wednesday: “Graham hinted that he expects her to resign. We all expect her to resign. We just wish we could do it before recess.”
Will she, as many pundits are expecting, spell out the timetable of her exit tomorrow?
Andrea Leadsom, the former Leader of the House of Commons, resigned as a direct protest to the proposed Withdrawal Bill.
That was the theme of her resignation letter anyway, in which she castigated the PM for offering MPs the chance to vote on a possible second referendum. Leadsom wrote: “I no longer believe that our approach will deliver on the referendum result.”
“No one has wanted you to succeed more than I have, but I do now urge you to make the right decisions in the interests of the country, this Government and our party,” she continued.Readers with a long memory may recall Leadsom running against May in the race to be Conservative Party leader back in 2016, although she eventually pulled out of the race after controversy surrounding a newspaper column; which essentially handed the keys to the present incumbent.
Leadsom had told interviewers that she had a ‘larger stake in society’ because she was a parent, with her opponent May child-less. That drew plenty of scorn, and forced Leadsom’s hand.
But she has announced that she was ‘seriously considering’ standing for leadership again, and so her conscious uncoupling from the PM was yesterday can be seen as a very serious confirmation of her intent.
Whether she can convince the Tories she’s the right woman for the job remains to be seen, however. Leadsom has sat on the fence as far as Brexit is concerned, appearing on a TV debate to represent Leave and yet also telling reporters that she thought the economy would be in serious peril if the UK left the EU – as confirmed on Twitter.