The vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister as leader of the Conservative Party will take place this evening (Wednesday 12 December). Graham Brady (above), Chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, announced this morning that he had received the necessary 48 letters to trigger the vote.
It is likely that the PM will win. The PMs opponents within the party have struggled to reach the magic number of 48 letters in recent weeks. In other circumstances that would wound a sitting leader, damaging them enough to precipitate defeat. In these unusual times the anti May caucus, needs to find another 100 plus MPs that will vote against May at 6pm tonight. That would mean no new leader before the deadline for a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal of 21 January. The result of voting the PM out would almost certainly lead to a no deal Brexit. Most Tory MPs don’t want that.
If May wins she’s safe from another vote for 12 months by which time she will have probably have left office of her own accord. In that event, the attempt to unseat the PM by hard line Brexiteers, will have backfired.
This is the bizarre moment when Prime Minister Theresa May was accused of a “premature parliamentary ejaculation” and immediately decried that she was incapable of such a thing. The accusation and denial ‘came’ during questions following the withdrawal on the meaningful vote on May’s Brexit proposal.
The day after PM Theresa May forced her draft Brexit deal through the cabinet her proposal and possibly her premiership has unravelled. A series of resignations from government and letters to Graham Brady the chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee will trigger a no-confidence motion that will take place in days possibly as soon as tomorrow.
The only way for May to avoid the vote, which she might well win, would be to resign. All Conservative MPs can vote and if May wins, she remains as PM and cannot be challenged by her party for 12 months. Lose and she must resign and is not eligible to stand in the leadership election that will follow.
May’s replacement will become prime minister without a general election. The election is by secret ballot and the candidate with the fewest votes is removed. Dependent on the number there are several votes (on Tuesdays and Thursdays) until only there are just two candidates who face each other in a postal ballot of the whole Conservative Party membership. The whole process could take several weeks.
Given that the Tories have no majority the combined opposition parties could pass a vote of No Confidence in the government and trigger a general election.
Few doubt that Boris Johnson’s resignation yesterday was less to do with Brexit and more to do with his continuing aspirations to be Prime Minister. Therein lies his problem.
Johnson has form for putting ambition ahead of service, a lot of form. Johnson biographer Andrew Gimson describes him as “staggeringly inconsiderate of others” when focusing upon his own interests. His popularity with a significant sector of the public, may well have tipped the balance in the Brexit referendum. Though despite his vigorous campaigning it’s not entirely clear he believed what he was saying. In February 2016, it was reported that Boris had written two Daily Telegraph columns – one in favour of Brexit, the other for Remain – before deciding which would fill his weekly slot. His decision to back Leave may well have been based on the belief that he would be narrowly on the losing side. He could then have fallen in line as a gallant loser, perfectly placed to succeed Cameron.
For months he has ignored the notion of collective cabinet responsibility to push himself onto the front pages. He seems to be sanguine about the Brexit shambles so long as it helps brand Boris. Yesterday, having agreed to May’s Brexit proposal on Friday, he did a 180 degree turn and resigned. He even produced a publicity shot, signing his resignation letter. History shows that those who show their hand so clearly and so often, rarely reach the highest office.
The resignation couldn’t have been more stage-managed and a leadership bid yesterday seemed inevitable. A few weeks ago when business leaders questioned the government’s indecision over Brexit, Boris allegedly said: “fuck business”. It seems now that more and more people are saying : “fuck Boris”.
Theresa May’s approval rating has fallen to -34 following the general election according to YouGov. In April, the PM had a net favourability rating of +10. The net score is a comparison between approvers 29% and disapprovers at 63%.
Jeremy Corbyn’s net score is 0 – meaning equal numbers of people approve and disapprove of him.
Incredibly the Prime Minister has become more unpopular even than Donald Trump. With 36% favourability versus a disapproval score of 59% according to Gallup who measure the president’s rating on a daily basis his net score is -23. The fact that May is scoring nine points lower is staggering given that Trump has the lowest average approval rating of any US president since records began.
The working relationship between the occupants of Number 10 and Number 11 Downing Street is critical. Philip Hammond said on the Today programme on 17 May that he had “occasionally sworn” at TM’sChief of Staff Nick Timothy. The were persuasive rumours of rows and it was an open secret that May planned to sack Hammond after the election, now she can’t and her Chief of Staff has gone. The relationship between May and Hammond is broken.
The DUP deal can’t hold
This as it turns out is the coalition of chaos. It is impossible to maintain the peace process in Northern Ireland if the government is in league with one of the parties. That alone is enough to break any deal. The DUP staunchly opposes same-sex marriage. There are 10 DUP MPs and 19 LGBTQ Tory MPs including the leader of the powerful Scottish Conservative group. As they say “you do the Math”.
She can’t manage the cabinet
She dropped plans for a major reshuffle of Cabinet because she can’t afford to alienate senior ministers. Without the power of patronage she’s not in charge.
The PM has no allies in Europe
Video that emerged from the EU summit last December showed the PM to be a lonely and isolated figure. That was before her humiliation at the polls. As we enter negotiations to leave the EU she has no influence and not a single ally.
What does Brexit mean now?
If Mrs May thought a Brexit deal was difficult before, now it may be impossible. She can’t satisfy the right of her party because she has to guarantee an open border in Ireland. That means doing a deal on the customs union and maybe even the single market. A hard Brexit would mean a Irish border deal that would eliminate backing from the DUP and potentially bring back conflict in Northern Ireland. She can’t deliver a hard Brexit and she can’t deliver a soft one either.
Minority governments don’t last
Even with a deal in place minority governments are very unstable. The Wilson government called an election just seven months after forming a minority government in February 1974. The 1977 Callaghan minority government lasted a little longer with the support of the Liberals, but that was gone in 16 months.
Her Chiefs of Staff are out
The PM’s joint Chiefs of staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill resigned today. Unlike PMs who have alliances with senior elected cabinet colleagues May relied very heavily on her special advisers. They were the architects of her strategy and her advisers when things started to unravel. It led to a breakdown in her relationship with ministers and MPs. A senior Tory MP told Robert Peston: “We all f***ing hate her. …She has totally f***ed us”. At a time when she needs friends and supporters, there are none.
The Tories won’t let her fight another election
It was “my manifesto” and “me and my team”. The campaign was all about the person and not the party and the results aren’t pretty for the Conservatives. If she can’t defend a 20 point lead she won’t get another chance to fight. The party will want a new leader in place in plenty of time before the next election. Some pundits are saying there could be another election this year that doesn’t leave much time.
Theresa May is heading for the departure lounge. We know it and she knows it.
We predict a Tory victory tonight but it will not be a good night for the Tory PM. She won’t get a resounding mandate and she will be seen by history to have wasted precious time for Brexit talks with a pointless election.
Survation was the polling firm that called it right in 2015 when most pollsters were way off. Here’s their final prediction:
Plaid Cymru 1.75
If you put that data into the Electoral Calculus prediction tool it suggests the Tory party will be two seats short of a majority. That would be a disaster for May and she’d be a lame duck PM unlikely to make it to the end of her term. Or even worse she might need to call another election within a year.
We don’t think it will be quite that bad for her but given that retaining the same majority now looks like a good result for the Conservatives there’s no way for May to spin it. The election was a bad call and it was badly fought. June could yet be the end of May.
Posts about elections and politics in general with a particular interest in how social media impacts on the political process.