Archive for the 'Theresa May' Category


Donald Trump’s re-tweets are going to cause Theresa May some problems

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Mrs May will have to publicly repudiate Donald Trump or her opponents will paint her as a friend of racists & neo-Nazis.

One of the few things I like about Mrs May is that she’s been strong on opposing bigotry and racism, a prime example being her changing the police’s approach on stop and search, fundamentally she’s a decent person and privately she’ll be appalled at Trump proving David Cameron’s maxim about twitter, again.

But given the position she finds herself in the post Brexit world, can she risk alienating Donald Trump by criticising his actions and withdrawing the state visit invitation? Labour are already urging her to do that.

As someone who enrages the likes of Britain First and the EDL on sight I know these re-tweets by Donald Trump will embolden them more, this isn’t a story that will just blow away. Theresa May can either condemn Trump now or look like she’s been forced to do so, I trust she will do the right thing sooner rather than later.

Although some of her advisers might tell her to go the Jeremy Corbyn route and just ignore it, given the opprobrium Corbyn received during the general election campaign for his past and current associations, it didn’t stop Corbyn increasing Labour’s share of the vote and seats.




So far so good. We might just get to the end of the week without a Cabinet exit

Thursday, November 16th, 2017


This is unlike each of the previous two weeks

As BBC Radio 4’s the Now Show has observed TMay’s Cabinet had begun to look like Strictly with a much publicised departure in the previous two weeks.

Well so far this week, and I know it is only Thursday, it looks as though TMay’s cabinet will remain intact. Her deputy and long-standing friend from her Oxford days, Damien Green, hangs on and my guess is that TMay will fight tooth and nail to keep him.

The former London Mayor is still there probably because it is far better to have him inside the tent p***ing out than outside p***ing in that wonderfully phrase credited to LBJ. He is joint second favourite with PaddyPower alongside DDavis and the PM herself.

But these are very difficult to predict. Remember the weekend after the general election when the widespread assumption was that she, in that memorable GOsborne phrase, “a dead woman walking”.

What there could always be is a confidence move against the PM herself. My sense is that she is finding her mojo again, her confidence is coming back and this might deter a move for now.

Mike Smithson


Now it’s being established that Russia did interfere with EURef what next?

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

At some stage it might be argued that this undermines the validity of the result

In the US the objective of those trying to examine the Russian impact on their Presidential election a year ago is clear
– to undermine and possibly get rid of Trump.

Whether they succeed or not will be dominate the political narrative for months and maybe years to come. Even if Trump survives this will be used to try to taint him to impede his efforts win a second term in 2020.

But what of the growing evidence of the Russian effort to secure a Leave outcome in the Brexit referendum?

So far there have been almost no voices saying that this in some way invalidates the result but that might come.

What could be highly significant is the ongoing Electoral Commission probe into the funding of parts of the Leave campaign. That the ultra right wing Breitbart has been seeking to attack the probity of the Commission itself suggests that it sees the danger.

And what are we to make of TMay’s Mayor’s Banquet speech when she made huge attack on Russian efforts to interfere? That was based surely on security briefings she has received.

I thought that this was a very brave speech when she appeared to have got her mojo back but what was the objective? It must have been realised in Number 10 that this can be used to raise questions about Brexit.

All this comes at a very challenging time for the government as it tries to move towards the next stage in its negotiations with Brussels and of course the big parliamentary battle over the Brexit Bill.

I’ve so far refrained from betting on whether Brexit will happen according to the Government’s timetable but there might come a moment when it is worth a punt.

Mike Smithson


Why the Tory plotters wanting to oust May need have no worries about letting Corbyn in

Monday, November 13th, 2017

A new CON leader WILL NOT mean an early general election

With the Sunday newspaper reports that the CON MPs plotting an early retirement for Mrs May being just 8 MPs short of the 48 required for a confidence vote we could be very close to a formal move against Mrs May.

One of the big arguments that May backers and the Tory whips are apparently making to MPs is that if she goes early then it heightens the risk of an early general election in which Jeremy Corbyn could be Prime Minister.

The same theme is taken up by the New Statesman George Eaton in an article in which he sets out how the fear of letting Corbyn in is being used.

… , having lost their majority earlier this year, the Conservatives are loath to do anything that could prompt a second general election. Labour would begin as favourites and Tory MPs sincerely fear the consequences of a Corbyn victory.

Faced with a choice between bad and worse, most Tory MPs believe that May’s survival represents the former. “

This, of course, is completely bogus and overlooks the legal mechanics of how general elections are now called. No longer does a Prime Minister have it in her or his gift to trot along to the Palace to call a general election.

For while the Fixed-Term Parliament Act, enacted as part of the coalition deal, is still on the statute book it is very hard to envisage the circumstances in which Mr. Corbyn enters Number 10 in the foreseeable future.

The FTPA lays down just two ways that an election can be called early: by two thirds of all MPs voting for one as happened last April or by a vote of no confidence in the government which is not rescinded within two weeks. Given what happened to Tories in June it is hard to see any TMay successor being foolhardy enough to risk either route.

In any case the next Tory leader is likely to have been elected in a members’ ballot which would give him or her more legitimacy. It was the avoidance of such a vote last year which was one of the factors that drove Mrs May to use the FTPA process in April.

There is no other legal mechanism for an early election to be called which is something which many close observers and active politicians don’t seem to have fathomed.

Mike Smithson


Sir Robert Peel and the Corn Laws – the ghost that haunts Theresa May

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

There is a way to avoid a Crash Brexit – but it’ll destroy May, her party and trust

All parties of any age have ghosts that haunt them: spectres from disasters of the past so great that they dare not be forgotten yet dare not be truly remembered either. Indeed, they may not really be remembered in detail at all; their legacy today lying not in memory or even mythology but in the culture and behaviour that evolved to ward off the evil spirits; a culture buried so deep that it never really need be explained other than a short ‘that’s not how we do things here’ to the new and the naive.

    For the Conservatives, the darkest of several ghosts that stalk the party is that of Robert Peel. It was Peel who inadvertently created the Conservative Party by splitting, and splitting from, the Tories that preceded it over the issue of the Corn Laws.

That he did so on a point which was one both of principle (he was genuinely in favour of free trade) and of practical humanitarian assistance is a complicating factor but the reaction still probably finds an echo in the traditional Conservative scepticism of ideologues. What the split also did was hand the country to the Liberal coalition for most of the next thirty years.

Why does this matter? Because Theresa May could well find herself in something of a similar position to Peel. Fortunately, the stakes won’t be quite as high. No matter how hard Brexit is, millions are not going to die. Even so, a failure to reach an Article 50 agreement by 29 March 2019 – a date likely, and foolishly, to be set in stone by legislation as the deadline for withdrawal – would almost certainly prompt a severe recession as the dislocation to the economy hit home.

Unfortunately, there’s an element of crying wolf here. Remain over-egged their predictions of what voting out would do, and some have similarly over-egged their predicted consequences from an orderly withdrawal. A disorderly withdrawal, however, is something very different. Trade would be seriously interrupted, yes, but the effects of a shift overnight to a whole new regulatory regime without that regime being properly prepared for and implemented would go far wider, touching directly or indirectly almost every aspect of daily economic life, parts of which could seize up.

This is, obviously, something the government wants to avoid. However, it’s not obvious that it can. Its self-imposed conditions, on the ECJ’s role and on freedom of movement, run directly counter to the EU’s red lines on the integrity of the Single Market, the need for a frictionless Irish border and how any deal on expats’ rights is enforced. There is of course also the question of the divorce bill – though there at least the dispute is down to details rather than principle, even if the nature of those details differs by tens of billions of pounds.

Might the EU move? It’s possible. On expats’ rights, there should be scope for compromise and the EU really ought to be able to roll back on its insistence that the ECJ guards how the deal is implemented in Britain. Mutual recognition of courts within their jurisdictions ought to be possible. Ireland is another question though. Not only is the EU red line meaningful there, there will be pressure from the DUP, as well as within the Conservatives, to ensure the integrity of the UK isn’t undermined by placing borders between Ulster and Britain.

That conflict could be resolved if Britain remains in the Single Market but that then has to run counter to the insistence on Britain regaining sovereignty on immigration and legislation – promises that May has made.

The PM made them for good reasons. At one level, it’s the spirit of what the voters backed. For Brexit to mean Brexit, and to be seen to mean Brexit, that means not just leaving the legal construct of the EU but leaving behind its restrictions and duties (and, inevitability, its benefits too). Staying in the Single Market would leave precious little behind. But for those same reasons, that same policy is currently holding together the Conservative party both in its support and in parliament.

Which is where we come back to Peel’s ghost. As with the repeal of the Corn Laws, there is a majority in parliament for a soft Brexit; it’s just that it involves gaining the backing of the opposition over the majority of the PM’s own party, with a very strong chance of the same result, in both the short and the longer term (Vince Cable can rest easy: the ‘same result’ is about the opposition, not the modern-day successors to the Whigs). But the cost to the PM and her party would be grievous and the benefits may be overrated.

Will May feel obliged, if the negotiations do go down to the wire, to sign whatever’s on offer so as to prevent a Crash Brexit? If she does, she would no doubt lose her leadership and, knowing that, could only propose it if she were willing to go all the way.

Which I don’t think she would. We all know that she’s in a weak position, pulled by the EU in one direction – the government has done pretty much all the conceding so far – and by her Eurosceptics on that other. Ultimately, the pull of her MPs will be the stronger but either way, she has to follow, not lead.

What that means is that a Crash Brexit is a very very real possibility. The red lines on both sides always meant that was the case and the likely writing into law of the UK’s deadline for leaving only increases that chance. But while Brexit may break many things, the party system won’t be one of them. Not beforehand, anyway.

David Herdson


When will there be the next Cabinet resignation? William Hill’s new market

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Theresa’s Balliol boys look the most vulnerable

These are indeed turbulent times at Westminster with two Cabinet exits in the space of a week. Now Hill’s have opened a market on not WHO will be the next to go but WHEN. These are the options and odds:

When Will Next Cabinet Minister Resign (Full Cabinet Members only)
2/1 November
5/2 December
8/1 January
10/1 February
12/1 March
6/4 April or later

Clearly there are two who have featured prominently in the media for different reasons – Damian Green and Boris Johnson. Both were at the same Oxford college, Balliol, though not at the same time.

The former strongly denies the allegations that have been made against him which are currently being investigated. The latter, of course, has been the subject of much criticism because of his comments about the British woman being held in jail in Iran.

My guess is that TMay doesn’t want either of them to quit. A Boris departure could stimulate a leadership challenge while Damian Green is very much the key member of her cabinet team and has been a close friend since they were both at Oxford.

It could, of course, be Theresa herself who is the next to go.

These are very difficult to forecast as is the timing.

Mike Smithson


Mrs May has missed an opportunity and it could be costly

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Cyclefree reflects on a dramatic week

It was Abba Eban who said of the Palestinians that “they never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” However true this may or may not be of the Palestinians, it is certainly true of Mrs May. One Cabinet resignation does not have to lead to a full-scale reshuffle, of course, particularly if the PM cannot be certain how many of the possible candidates have been guilty of knee touching, knee tremblers or any other variety of sexual activity. But however fearful she may have been of instigating a reshuffle, when presented with the opportunity for one, why the craven timidity? Well, we can all guess why: fear for her job, a loss of confidence ever since her ill-fated General Election gamble, an unwillingness to trust outside a small circle and, probably most important of all, a failure to grasp two important lessons from the election.

They are these: good policies are not enough and who delivers the message is at least as important as what the message is. The Tory manifesto was not an example of good policies. Far from it. But there has been a tendency within the party and some of its supporters to think that merely replacing the ones which were rejected in June with some shiny new ones, a bit more nicely wrapped, will be enough. Letting Granny keep her house, tweaking student loans here, building some more houses there should do it” seems to be the hope. But it won’t. Few amongst the young or those on the right side of 40 are even willing to give the Tories a hearing.

They just don’t come into consideration at all. Asking those in their 20’s and 30’s to consider voting for a Tory party with people like Davis, Hammond, Fox, May, etc in charge is like asking them to watch a film on a video recorder. Corbyn may look old but he seems fresh. His is a voice that has not been heard for a while. He talks about stuff that matters to people and he seems to have some answers. It is irrelevant – for now – that in reality his political outlook is essentially nostalgic and that his remedies may not work. He has the electorate’s attention.

The Tories are largely talking to themselves. 40% in the polls looks good but how lasting or loyal is it in reality? How much of their vote is a not-Corbyn vote? Or a “Get Brexit done and then goodbye” vote? About the only Tory politician who has cut through is Rees-Mogg and for all his courtly politeness and Ultramontaine Catholicism, appealing to fans of Brideshead Revisited is hardly a winning electoral formula. For Tories to be given a chance to be listened to, people need to look up and notice and see and hear someone different, someone new, younger, someone they have not heard before, talking to them with a different voice, even looking different.

A reshuffle was an opportunity to bring on younger promising Tories, those closer in age and outlook and background to the parts of the electorate they need to reach, those speaking in accents that are not pure Home Counties, those with constituencies far from London, those with experience of the wider world or outside the usual Oxbridge/London/SPAD route, those with some understanding of what it is to worry about unexpected bills. It was an opportunity to start resetting the Tories image, much as Cameron’s election in 2005 from nowhere started to make people look at the Tories again. It was an opportunity to shift a generation and to get that new generation thinking about what a Conservatism for the 2020’s and beyond needs to be if it is to survive.

In seeking to rely only on those she could trust, Mrs May forgot that giving others opportunity and advancement and hope for preferment would both make her own and, more importantly, her party’s position more secure. Those who look for promotion are now reduced to hoping that others’ long-forgotten fumblings will create some more vacancies. Never was the personal more political.



The Williamson appointment makes it even less likely that TMay will stay until Brexit

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

I’ve long regarded Isabel Hardman (daughter of my former BBC colleague and friend, founder of CAMRA, Mike Hardman) as one of the best when it comes to taking the pulse of the Parliamentary Conservative Party and her latest piece on the reaction to the Williamson appointment doesn’t disappoint.

What stands out is that this is a huge surprise. Ladbrokes didn’t even include Williamson in its list of betting options this morning.

Those who watched July’s TV documentary on the last CON leadership race will recall that Williamson played a key part in TMay’s victory and has a reputation for being foul-mouthed.

He also has zero experience as a minister and is now running a department which oversees the massive defence budget which is a significant part of Britain’s GDP. Inevitably there’ll be many Tory MPs anxious to climb the ministerial ladder who will be jealous and that will make them extra critical. Re-shuffles however limited can be troubling times which is why Cameron tried to limit them.

This is from Hardman’s verdict:

“…The consensus seems to be that she has such a small pool of people who she knows and trusts that she didn’t feel she had anyone else to turn to, and this in turn has led a number of Tory MPs to agree with Gary Streeter’s assessment of the party, which is that it is starting to resemble the Conservatives in the 1992-97 parliament. Some of those who share this bleak view do still think they could turn things around, saying that all that really matters is that the party secures a good Brexit, but others argue that May’s handling of the scandal and mini-reshuffle have undermined her authority to the extent that it is difficult to see her surviving all the way to the end of Brexit..”.

Mike Smithson