Now the talk is of a 2021 exit
We all remember the events June 9th the day after the general election as it became apparent that Theresa May’s huge gamble in going to the country earlier to get a big bigger majority was going to end in failure.
Instead of increasing the overall number of Conservative MPs which would have helped her during this difficult period getting the Brexit bill through Mrs May found herself in a minority government. David Cameron’s hard won and unexpected majority 2 years earlier had been fitted away.
The former Chancellor and leading Conservative, George Osborne, noted in those immortal words on television that “Mrs May was a dead woman walking”. And who could actually dispute the Osborne analysis? The Tories have a historical record of being absolutely ruthless with failed leaders and the expectation was that she would be out.
Leadership speculation built up during the weekend and Boris Johnson became the 30% favourite to take over. Everything looked as though the former mayor was going to move pretty quickly in to Number 10 Downing Street.
On the Monday after the election Mrs May appeared before the 1922 committee and persuaded them that she was the one to carry on certainly until Brexit had happened. Maybe te alternative of PM Boris focused opinions.
In the run up to the Party Conference season or Focus came all the talk was about the reaction that Conservative delegates would have towards their leader who had lost them their majority.
Tension was running high on that first Wednesday in October as Mrs May rose to make her conference speech was clearly feeling the strain. Her conference speech could not have been more disastrous. She started to lose her voice and at one point received from a fellow cabinet member the famous lozenge. As if nothing else could happen with the sign behind her on the platform started to lose letters s they slid down the board- a metaphor for her leadership?
Surely now what’s the moment for her to be going and stories came out that weekend about the former party chairman, Grant Shapps, having 30 MPs who were ready to sign letters to the 1922 committee chair demanding an immediate confidence ballot.He needed 48 but clearly did not have enough names to make the threshold.
People started to draw parallels between her position and that of Iain Duncan Smith in 2003 who had been ousti in such a confidence ballot within 4 weeks of receiving the longest ever conference standing ovation. Again October and November came and went and then we had the crucial talks in Brussels which were portayed as her victory..
Today’s Times is reporting that her exit could now be put back to 2021:
“..The emerging view comes as the Brexit cabinet sub-committee holds its first talks today on the sort of relationship Britain wants after leaving the EU. The Times understands that a number of cabinet ministers are lining up to agree to a gradual process of diverging from the EU after 2021, rejecting new EU legislation as it is proposed.
One cabinet minister told The Times: “She is not one to up sticks and leave. I’m confident that she will go on long beyond when many people expect. There is no clean and simple moment when she will or can leave. I think the leadership contest will be pushed back and back.”..
My guess is that if she gets to 2020 this will be like Gordon Brown in 2008/9. It was accepted by the party that he would be an electoral liability but it it was always felt that it was too close to the election to change leaders.