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The reshuffle has left TMay weaker but has it hastened her departure?

January 10th, 2018

There’s still no obvious alternative

The former shadow CON minister and head of ConHome, Paul Goodman, has given his damning verdict on the reshuffle under the heading “The worst-handled reshuffle in recent history – perhaps ever”.

This, of course, follows other PM “set pieces” like her October conference speech and the GE17 campaign that didn’t go according to plan.

He highlights that “for several days, the media was full of stories about why the Prime Minister didn’t rate Justine Greening. If they had been knocked down, the latter might have been willing to stay on.” Undoubtedly TMay has made more enemies and Goodman raises the possibility that Greening and even DGreen might join the Brexit belligerents on the back benches.

So the Conservative’s very tight parliamentary position could get even tighter. If both Green and Greening back, say, a controversial Brexit amendment that reduces the government’s theoretical commons majority by four.

No doubt it adds to the number of CON MPs who are ready at the right moment to write to the Chair of the 1922 Committee asking for a confidence vote.

But Theresa May is still there. She is remarkably resilient and has managed to continue in spite of events that other earlier leaders would have found insurmountable. Losing the Conservative majority in June, her less than successful conference speech in October, and now, of course, this botched attempt to add sparkle to her government.

What saves her is that there is no obvious alternative. The 30% betting favourite following the election defeat last June, Boris Johnson, has now slipped sharply down; David Davis who looked like the best alternative for a long period is now down to just 3% in the betting; and two of the top three that the markets most rate, Rees-Mogg and Ruth Davidson are not even Cabinet ministers. The latter is not even an MP.

Boris is still second favourite but it is very hard to envisage him being able to secure the backing of enough MPs to get himself through to the members’ ballot.

Dominic Raab, who wasn’t given a cabinet position in the reshuffle and remains largely unknown outside the party, is now rated as a 5% chance on Betfair. He’s my long shot bet.

Andrea Leadsom is now down at a 3% chance.

Mrs May, meanwhile, continues to give the impression that she’d like to continue perhaps until tthe next general election. Maybe she will do that in spite of everything.

So I am not betting on her early departure.

Mike Smithson