Archive for the 'Theresa May' Category


After the weekend break welcome back to the coalition of chaos

Monday, October 16th, 2017

It shouldn’t be able to go on like this but it probably will

The cartoon just about sums it up. Time is running out under the Brexit extraction process and it is hard to say with any certainty who will be the senior members of government at Christmas.

TMay is now a diminished figure and in spite of the apparent turmoil within her party she simply does not have the authority to try to reshuffle her cabinet.

One side of the Tory party calls for the Chancellor to be sacked while others want Foreign Secretary out. The fault lines that were exposed during John Major’s 1992-1997 government are still there and seem wider than ever.

    Meanwhile Labour, which looked finished after losing the Copeland by-election earlier in the year, has now got its act together and can smell blood.

On top of this the Tories have put back the committee stage of what was called the Great Repeal Bill because of fears of rebellions, splits and defeats.

Even when it gets through the Commons the battles will be resumed in the Lords where the numbers situation is even worse for the Tories.

On the face of it it shouldn’t be able to go on like this but most likely it will.

Mike Smithson


BJohnson now clear betting favourite to succeed TMay

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Peston: “No longer absurd that Boris could be PM within weeks”

The former Mayor and current foreign secretary is now clear favourite to be the next CON leader but his odds are nothing like as strong as they were in the weekend after the general election.

One of the drivers of the increased sentiment in Boris has come from a Facebook post by ITV’s Robert Peston. This is what he wrote about the Brexit divisions in the cabinet.

“..Her (TMay’s) perhaps fatal weakness is that she lacks the authority to settle this argument, such that the rest of the EU would have a clear understanding of who actually represents the UK and what we want from Brexit.

In the words of a senior member of the cabinet, it is a scandal that there has never been a cabinet discussion about what kind of access we want to the EU’s market once we leave, what kind of regulatory and supervisory regime should then be in place to ensure a level playing field for EU and UK businesses, and -don’t gasp – how much we might actually pay to the EU as the so-called divorce bill.

In the absence of a settled government position on these most basic of our Brexit demands, it is little short of a miracle that the leaked draft of a possible EU council statement actually holds out the possibility of the EU itself beginning to mull the form of possible trade and transition deals with us.

To be clear, it has been her ordinance that there should be no cabinet discussion of all this. And if the prime minister lacks the power and authority to negotiate Brexit with her own ministers – who after all are supposed to be on the same side as her – what possible chance is there of her reaching any kind of entente with 27 EU governments?

What should trouble her profoundly is that even those who just a week ago were savaging Boris for his disloyalty, or who detest his Brexit dogmatism, now say little could be worse than the status quo – and that as he seems to own a torch and a stick, they’d rather have him.

To be clear, I am not saying Boris Johnson will be PM within weeks. But I am saying that I no longer regard that as an absurd notion.

Time will tell.

Mike Smithson


TMay refuses 3 times to say she’d vote for Brexit

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

If you have not had chance to watch Iain Dale’s interview tonight then it is worth looking at. The beleaguered PM doesn’t do many interviews as long as this one and Iain, a former CON PPC, did not give the PM a easy time.

The news part of the session which will be remembered was her refusal on three occasions to say how she’d vote if there was a new Brexit referendum. It will be interesting to watch how that goes down with the hard Brexiteers in the party and on whose votes she might have to rely on if there is a confidence motion.

The big question that will hang over her is whether there is going to be a confidence move. If one happens it will become quickly and be resolved quickly.

Mike Smithson


If it gets to a confidence vote then timings will make it harder for the Whips to defend Theresa

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Although the media has moved on she isn’t out of the woods yet

No doubt the Number 10 PR team is absolutely delighted that the media has moved on from speculating about TMay’s future as PM but it was a story that dominated the news for five full days.

She’s still there and showing resilience. But having been party chair at the time of the last move by CON MPs to oust a leader she’ll be acutely aware of the process that happened fewer than four weeks after the 2003 conference to the then leader Iain Duncan Smith.

The process then was brutal and incredibly fast. Letters from more than 15% of the Parliamentary Party were filed in the afternoon and the following morning MPs were voting on whether or not they had confidence in the leader. So there was a tight time-line.

So far TMay’s Whips have done a good job protecting the leader. It was said that they leaked that Grant Shapps was plotting which helped forestall it. But the period of danger is far from over. At any time the chair of the 1922 committee could be presented with the necessary letters from 48 CON MPs requesting a confidence vote.

This makes it much harder for the Whips to influence the outcome and is a point, no doubt, that those wanting her out are telling fellow MPs that they are trying to persuade to send letters.

What surprised me in 2003 was that IDS was ready to tough it out and go through with the vote rather than resigning beforehand. My guess is that TMay would do the same.

Mike Smithson


The real loser in all of this is the Tory reputation for competence

Monday, October 9th, 2017

It has long been argued by myself and others that the key characteristic that voters look to when whey make their choice is their desire for competent government. We might not like what a party is proposing but most of all we want politicians who are ready to take unpopular decisions which are right for the country.

One of the characteristics which has always been a strength of Tories has been the reputation for providing just this. The Thatcher government is a classic case. It did many things that large number of people were opposed to but it gave the impression of being competent.

The long period of Tory rule which had begun with Mrs. Thatcher’s GE1979 victory ended in 1997 because the huge divide by then over Europe allowed Blair to portray it as incompetent and that the Labour he led was able to provide a competent alternative.

Clare Foges, a Number 10 speech-writer during the Cameron era sums it up well in the Times this morning.

” The Conservative Party does not need to worry about being likeable. Its currency is not likeability but respect. For decades there has been a belief that while you might loathe the Tories, they get the job done. Yes, they could be arrogant, high-handed bastards but at least they were competent bastards. They were capable. They could envision and see through big, nation-changing projects. This is the fatal thing about the current state of the Conservative Party. The reputation for competence is gone — and with it the grudging respect that brought millions of people to vote Tory.

Looking back I think the moment Tory reputation was lost during this year’s election campaign was the Monday after the controversial manifesto launch and the U-turn by Mrs. May on the dementia tax.

My initial reaction to the proposal was that it showed a government that was willing to make highly unpopular decisions on what is one of the biggest issues of the day which other governments of all shades had been avoiding for decades. I thought it was an election winner because of the messages it sent out about competence and willingness to take tough decision. which would be unpopular with core Tory voters. Then the policy was watered down and TMay has suffered ever since.

Mike Smithson


For everyone’s sake, Mrs May shouldn’t demote Boris but engineer a job swap between her Foreign Secretary and the editor of the Evening Standard

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

Mrs May attempts undo the strangest political appointment since Caligula wanted to make his horse a Consul

When Theresa May’s political obituary is written people might conclude she destroyed her premiership within minutes of becoming Prime Minister when she fired George Osborne as Chancellor and appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary.

At a stroke she made a needless enemy and compounded that mistake by appointing a blunderbuss as Foreign Secretary when the United Kingdom faces arguably its greatest foreign policy challenge since the second world war.

Where Boris Johnson should be bringing harmony, truth, faith, and hope, he seems to be bringing discord, error, doubt, and despair, as evidenced, for example, by talk of the French President administering world war two era punishment beatings over Brexit or that ‘joke’ about dead bodies in Libya. Michael Gove’s derailing of Boris Johnson’s leadership bid in 2016 should have given Mrs May pause for thought before she appointed Boris Foreign Secretary.

Last week The Sunday Times reported that Boris Johnson was struggling to live on the £141,505 annual salary of a Foreign Secretary because of his extensive family obligations, he has four children with his wife, and a daughter from an affair, once again the political ambitions of ‘Bonking Boris’ might be curtailed by his inability to keep the snake inside the pet store.

Freed from office and The Commons, George Osborne is earning, inter alia, £650,000 per annum for one day a week, if Boris wants to earn that kind of money, then the solution is obvious for Boris, as being Prime Minister doesn’t pay much more than being Foreign Secretary.

So instead of demoting him later on this month as today’s Sunday Times alludes to, where by demoting him she will create another needless enemy, she should help him realise his earning potential outside of politics, she should point out he has more journalistic experience than George Osborne had when he was appointed editor of The Evening Standard.

With the actions of Boris having so destabilised Mrs May and the Tory conference, you can see why it might be in everyone’s interest that the Conservative party’s colossal Johnson pulls out of professional politics.

If Gordon Brown can bring Peter Mandelson back into government despite their long standing issues, then Mrs May can bring back George Osborne into government. It would show Mrs May is the bigger person. I’m sure George Osborne, a man who loves his country and party, would be willing to serve for the national interest.

I suspect it pains him to see all the hard work of David Cameron and himself to detoxify the Tory party undone by Mrs May, and he’d want to restart the detoxification project, that would also appeal to him.

As the only Tory to win a majority in the last twenty five year, David Cameron can attest that Osborne gives unwavering loyalty and support to a Tory Prime Minister, something Mrs May currently lacks, he’d also bring the vision thing, something which Mrs May’s government lacks.

Over to you Mrs May, hiring George Osborne might be the only way to save your Premiership.



Safe for now – but for how long?

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

A good whipping operation can delay but not prevent the inevitable

Napoleon famously demanded that his generals be lucky. It’s a wonderful attribute to have but the emperor really should have been more specific. What’s important is being lucky at the right time. On that score, Theresa May has fallen short and it will cost her her premiership.

That’s not to say she’ll lose it today or tomorrow, or even this year. An effective pre-emptive strike against Grant Shapps ensured that his attempt to force a change was still-born and almost certainly prevented other critics from breaking cover. You do not go for the kill if you aren’t sure you have the resources to carry it through. (Shapps did, of course, continue what might well have become a suicide mission but he’d already been exposed, leaving him with only the options of pretending he hadn’t been orchestrating it – a line that would no doubt have fallen apart faster than a conference set – or holding firm despite his obvious isolation).

For all that though, her luck has deserted her when she needed it and it’s left her so badly weakened that it will be almost impossible for her to recover he authority. She got lucky in the leadership election when all the other candidates took each other, or themselves, out – but opinion polls put her ahead among party members even before Boris withdrew. She got lucky with Corbyn as Labour leader but she inherited a majority, if only a small one: whoever led Labour after 2015 could have only carped from the sidelines unless she gave them an opening.

But since the election, where she pushed her luck too far, she’s been anything but the commanding presence she was before May and now, when she needed a break, her luck has deserted her.

The conference was the best opportunity she’s had since the election to relaunch her premiership, which had become mired down in the bog of Brexit. In the text of her speech, she did just that: restating the priorities she put forward on entering Number Ten and making a strong philosophical and practical case for them (though not necessarily a great campaigning case). Unfortunately, people stopped taking in what she was saying to concentrate only on how she was saying it. The story was of her delivery, the interruption and the set design. Her best chance has now gone and it’s back to the day job.

And the day job brings continual challenges: not necessarily of the direct form that Shapps adopted but the day-to-day stuff that firstly brings endless opportunities to slip up and which secondly can easily get – and until now has got – in the way of the big vision stuff. It still will. May doesn’t have the authority to impose that programme while people are looking to a time beyond her departure and it’s not been sufficiently well-sold for it to develop organically.

    The big danger for her is that once a narrative of her being under pressure is created, it will become very difficult to dispel, not least because she’s not extrovert and she does act defensively.

The media also love a narrative that they can shoehorn events into – and there are always events that can be shoehorned.

Sooner or later, this will take its toll. Given the dismissal of the Shapps plot, don’t expect a downfall within days but she’s not safe for the rest of this year yet, never mind beyond. Never forget that the Tory leadership rules can swing into action within hours, that there is no need for MPs to go public and there is no need for challengers to champion an alternative leader until the No Confidence vote is concluded (though this last fact is only partially true: in practice, MPs will always be thinking more than one step ahead). Whether an internal falling out, a fluffed set-piece or something else, opportunities to challenge will arise. The only sure defence against them is to be delivering as leader: no-one is talking about challenges to Corbyn any more.

Can she deliver the turnaround that Corbyn did? I can’t see it. Corbyn had, and took, the opportunity to play to his strength, as well as being granted an extraordinary opportunity by the Tory manifesto. May’s strength – calmly getting on with the job – simply does not have the same capacity to change minds, particularly when, for example, so little progress is being made on Brexit, the economy is slowing and the NHS is about to enter the pressures of winter. Leaders have to be able to lead as well as to manage.

Napoleon’s maxim is both trite and truthful at the same time. No-one is inherently lucky; the best that anyone can do is make the most of their luck. The French emperor, for example, was not unlucky that Russia proved a rather more resilient foe when fighting on its own ground than he’d assumed, nor that he didn’t prepare properly, either in resources or in strategy.

Having fluffed her own March on Moscow (or at least, Bolsover), Theresa May is a much reduced figure. The lack of an obvious replacement shields her to a degree, as does what in normal circumstances would be very good polling (YouGov had the Tories back in at 40 yesterday, only 2 behind Labour). However, the responses to the subsidiary questions are deteriorating and the Tory vote share must be considered soft.

These last couple of days have proven that Conservative MPs are not yet in a mood to panic, which may be a human response to events outside the PM’s control. That will not always be the case.

David Herdson


Ex-Tory chairman Shapps “leading the rebels working to oust TMay”

Friday, October 6th, 2017

Meanwhile YouGov finds the country divided over TMay staying

So the battle for the future of the Conservative Party is now on with senior figures ready to go on the record saying they are working to try to force her out.

In process terms the rebels need 15% of the parliamentary party, 48, to send letters to the chairman of the 1922 committee demanding a confidence vote on the Prime Minister. The Times report linked to above says that there are at least 30 names.

As I have noted in previous posts the process of ousting a Conservative leader is very separate from the process of electing a new one. Only after there has been a vote has no confidence or Mrs May quits voluntarily will possible contenders have to declare themselves.

    What is interesting here is that the rebels do not appear to be Boris Johnson backers but previous loyalists to the last Conservative Prime Minister to win a majority, David Cameron.

It was that majority that Mrs May lost on June 8th in the general election that she personally called three years early.

There have been separate reports that supporters of the former Mayor and now Foreign Secretary have their own list of MPs ready to demand a confidence motion.

Whether they are included in the 30 total I do not know. Last week I was given a figure of Boris backers of 38 CON MPs from what I regard as a reliable party source.

Whatever the battle for the future of the Conservative Party is now on.

Latest betting has Mrs May a 2/1 to survive the year.

Mike Smithson