Archive for the 'Theresa May' Category


PB’s lunchtime cartoon for the day of the Macron visit

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

What’s TMay’s strategy?


Mrs May’s weird plot to make Gavin Williamson her successor is likely to fail

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

Mrs May is annoying far too many people in the party & that will cause her and her preferred successor problems in the future

Trying to understand Mrs May’s recent reshuffle has been a challenge, but over the weekend a few people suggested it was all part of a weird plot to make Gavin Williamson Tory leader, Iain Martin says

Theresa May’s reshuffle was rubbish for a reason it seems. In the days that followed this week’s half-hearted reconstruction of the government, MPs, ministers and aides tried to make sense of what the Prime Minister and her closest supporters thought they were doing when they kept changes to a minimum. An astonishing picture is emerging as various factions across the Tory parliamentary party compare notes.

Contrary to expectation, the party’s “young talents” – such as Rory Stewart and Dominic Raab – were deliberately not fast-tracked into the cabinet. Others were sidelined, stalled or given “hospital pass” postings. Why? So that they would not have any cabinet experience this year, deliberately handicapping them if they want to run for the leadership later this year or next.

The Mayite candidate when that contest eventually comes thus has a head start and is already in the cabinet. That is the defence secretary Gavin Williamson so vigorously promoted as the future of a grittier “Nottingham not Notting Hill” Conservatism, by Nick Timothy, May’s former chief of staff. Timothy still has a great influence on May, who has long relied on his political skills.

What is in it for May? A cabinet minister says that if her supporters prevail then she gets to stay a good bit longer than anticipated beyond 2019, supposedly redeeming her  legacy and earning a better place in history. Or if she falls early, via an emergency, Williamson is well-placed and those other youngsters outside the cabinet are left at a disadvantage. That cabinet minister thinks there will be hell to pay as more MPs realise what is going on, but we’ll see.

The Sunday Times has one minister saying ‘Damian Hinds was promoted to the post of education secretary because “he is Gavin Barwell’s best mate”. Barwell is May’s chief of staff.’  Another ‘minister who had been expecting a promotion told friends he had complained to the chief whip and was told: “Sorry, there are other agendas at work here.”’

So we have a lot of annoyed and frustrated Tory MPs and ministers, it appears that Mrs May’s government is more of chumocracy than David Cameron’s government ever was and that will lead to retribution for Mrs May and the likes of Williamson & Hinds. The Sunday Times also speculates these actions might lead to a leadership challenge against Mrs May.

If Mrs May stays for at least another two years we probably will see at least one more reshuffle, probably in the aftermath of the UK leaving the EU in March 2019. If she attempts another reshuffle like this one, she should be facing a leadership contest, you simply cannot annoy your MPs and ministers like this all in the attempt to game the next leadership race.

In the next Tory leadership contest both Gavin Williamson and Damian Hinds could be recipients of a backlash from Tory MPs for Mrs May’s actions. In the next PM/Tory leader markets I’ve been laying Gavin Williamson for quite some time, this week’s events seem to confirm the wisdom of that, his very rapid (over)promotion to Defence Secretary is seen as even more of a mistake by the week.


P.S. – Earlier on this week Michael Gove said the next Tory leadership contest final two could be between Williamson & Hinds, the interesting aspect of this is that both are Remainers. Anyone who sees the next Tory leadership contest exclusively through the prism of Remain vs Leave or think being a Remainer will be a disadvantage are making a mistake. The next Tory leadership contest will be viewed through the prism of who is best placed to win the next general election.


Marf on TMay’s big idea – the war on plastic waste

Friday, January 12th, 2018

She needs to be careful that it doesn’t become a “cones hotline”

If the object was to move on from the bungling of the reshuffle then Theresa May’s remarkable move on plastic waste has certainly achieved that.

For this is something that will affect almost everyone certainly those who have to shop and, no doubt, most people have a view.

For the reshuffle simply highlighted to the world what a weak position she was in and that there is little that she will be able to do to deal about the tight parliamentary arithmetic which was created, of course, by the general election result of which she has ownership.

But the plastic effort all seems a little petty and trivial for the PM to be announcing although, of course, the overall problem is one that government’s should be concerned about.

And why wasn’t the environment secretary, Michael Gove, the one who was making these big announcements. He is the one who has developed her an interesting narrative in his new role and this would just build on that?

It all reminds me of John Major’s “cones hotline” in the 1992-97 parliament which came to become a symbol of the then PM’s weaknesses rather than strengths.

Mike Smithson


Reshuffling the TMay way – a cock-up over Grayling that will dominate the media narrative

Monday, January 8th, 2018

This is making her conference speech look good


And so to re-shuffle day unless the media’s being very badly misled

Monday, January 8th, 2018

At least it’ll divert attention from the Toby Young Tweets

I can’t remember a reshuffle that has been trailed as long this one. On Saturday David Herdson very rightly set out the reasons why Theresa May should not be holding a reshuffle so soon after the general election.

There have been others, like former Cameron PR boss, Craig Oliver, saying that the worst thing that a PM can do is let everybody know that a reshuffle is happening. Far far better to let it come as a complete surprise in order to impede the cabinet scheming or other machinations created by the process itself.

But we are where we are and the main surprises will be if some of the weekend predictions don’t happen. I’ve had a little flutter on Andrea Leadsom being one of the cabinet members who will be shown the door who had the best odds of those being tipped.

    It is on one of these days that you might just feel sorry for those who might be involved and who no doubt will spend the next 24 or 36 hours holding their mobile phones waiting for that call that may or may not be coming from Downing Street.

    Their whole political futures could look different in 24 hours time.

For the sake of all those involved I do hope that Theresa May will have learnt some of the lessons from the formation of her first cabinet after becoming leader in July 2016. How she dealt with George Osborne on that day was a mistake which could have been avoided.

This all takes some of the focus on whether or not Toby Young he is going to be allowed to carry on with his new university watchdog role. I don’t think however, that this issue is going to go away.

Mike Smithson


Why TMay should wait to reshuffle her cabinet

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

There is a good reason why PMs do not reshuffle only 6 months after a GE

One of the easier predictions I thought I’d made in a twitter string earlier this week was that Theresa May wouldn’t engage in a voluntary major reshuffle of her cabinet this year. Within two hours of me doing so, the political twittersphere was alive with speculation and supposedly informed comment that just such a reshuffle was imminent – talk that Number Ten did little to dampen.

Not that Number Ten ever does much to dampen or encourage speculation of this type, which is a serious error. Whatever happens now, May is in a worse position. If a reshuffle does go ahead, ministers have had several days to organise, lobby and plot; if it doesn’t, it looks as if she’s backed down.

    The repeated refusal of the PM’s media team to engage proactively in setting the news agenda is light years from the days of New Labour’s fabled grid – and light years from New Labour’s media effectiveness. It does, however, mirror May.

Certainly, the media has changed since the 1990s but not all that much – and to the extent that it has, it demands even faster, on-the-ball responses to social media trends and 24-hours news.

Commenting on one of Corbyn’s early, botched reshuffles, William Hague identified six Reshuffle Rules in an article for The Telegraph. The first two were (1) reshuffles should come as a complete surprise to virtually everyone, and (2) a leader should never lose a contest of strength in deciding whether or not to move a minister. In being seen to march up the hill but not acting, May has already broken by far the most important rule and has made it more likely that she’ll break the second one too. Both are about the leader’s authority and both identify why reshuffles are so risky: handled well, they will reinforce the leader’s position; handled badly, they leave him or her looking weak and at the mercy of colleagues.

Which is why May should not be indulging in a reshuffle now. The time she should ideally have reshuffled (and would have done had things been different) was immediately after the election but her position then was so weak that she needed all the support she could get and couldn’t afford to alienate any senior figure or their MP supporters – which meant she couldn’t force someone out against their will. In keeping with Rule 2, she therefore didn’t engage in a test of strength that she couldn’t win.

May is not now in quite as weak a position as she was in June. The shock of the election has worn off, the deal with the DUP has been sealed, and she has delivered on the first round of Brexit talks. The timeframe of talk of her exit is in years rather than days. For all that, her majority is marginal and dependent on both the DUP and potentially rebellious backbenchers, and a senior ex-minister on the back-benches could make life very difficult for her. The intensity of the reasons for not reshuffling last June might have faded but the mathematics remain.

One aspect of those mathematics is that if you were wanting to sack some ministers, both because of their performance and to bring in new blood, names that might be under threat could be people like Boris, Andrea Leadsom and Chris Graying. With David Davis having already been sidelined to a degree with May having taken a more direct role in the negotiations, and having already lost Priti Patel, that cumulative effect would be a major blow to the original Leavers, something which would surely inspire at best concern and at worst outright hostility from Eurosceptic MPs and others, worried that the government was drifting towards a very soft exit. There are, of course, far more Leave Tory MPs than the number necessary to trigger a leadership vote. In theory, she could replace the outgoing Leavers with new ones but in practice, it might not be so easy to find square pegs to fit into square holes. Similarly, throwing some Remainers to the wolves in compensation isn’t a viable possibility because she needs their support too.

On the other hand, what would be the point of a reshuffle where dead wood couldn’t be cut off? That too would be a very open admission of weakness. Indeed, it was the very reason she didn’t do it six months ago.

The other reason why prime ministers don’t reshuffle so early in the parliament is because ministers have important jobs to do and in the first year after an election, they’re usually busy setting the agenda for reform and for legislation. This one may be slightly different in that there’s less work of that nature than usual – Brexit, May’s innate caution, and the aborted 2015 parliament all mitigate against a current rush of action – but there’s still work ongoing.

Above all, that means the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. On that score, Davis’ position has to be secure: there simply isn’t the time for anyone else to get up to speed on both the negotiations and the legislation.

None of these structural issues is going to go away any time, which is a problem for May as they will always limit her room for manoeuvre unless she can regain her lost authority. Without that, it’s difficult to see a window opening in which she can conduct a meaningful reshuffle until the Phase 2 Brexit deal is concluded, probably in December.

This isn’t to say there won’t be a January reshuffle; a PM can always instigate one. It does mean, however, that if May does choose to push on with re-forming the government, there’s a strong chance that something will go wrong.

David Herdson


Michael Crick is right about appointments to the House of Lords

Friday, January 5th, 2018

If we are continuing with an appointed upper chamber then the process must be transparent

With Mrs. May, who lost the CON majority last June, planning to bolster CON representation in the House of Lords then there’s a fair bit of speculation about who might get the £300 a day plus expenses roles.

Let us not forget that the reason we have an appointed Lords is that Tory backbench MPs rebelled on a programme motion in 2011 effectively stopping any progress on the coalition plan for an elected upper house.

In normal times there is a convention that the Lords does not seek to impede legislation that was in the general election manifesto of a party winning a majority which did not happen last June. So no majority means no convention.

Mrs. May went to the country last June seeking a mandate for her Brexit plans which the voters did not give her.

Mike Smithson


YouGov’s latest Brexit tracker – the monthly average trend chart and latest party splits

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

There really has been very little movement

The final 2017 poll was for YouGov which included it’s regular Brexit tracker which PB has been reporting on ever since it was introduced shortly after the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Some have criticised the phraseology of YouGov’s question with the suggestion that the term “in hindsight” is leading people to take the view the decision was wrong. Maybe – but that doesn’t shows up in the numbers with a very high proportion of both Leavers and Remainers sticking with their view.

For trackers to have credibility the same formulation of words has to used on every occasion so that we can discern a trend if indeed there is one.

So we can see that over period and using average results for each month that has been something of a shift but of very small proportions period. What’s also interesting is that the party splits are showing very little movement.

One thing is clear “Brexit wrong” only had a lead in two poll before July. “Brexit right” has not led in any poll since TMay returned from her summer holiday in mid-August

Mike Smithson