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.
She’s at odds with her chancellor
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’s Chief 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.
The former leader of the LibDems Nick Clegg lost his seat last night.
The ex-deputy Prime Minister was ousted from his Sheffield Hallam constituency by Labour. Jared O’Mara took the seat with 21,881 votes vs Clegg’s 19,756.
‘”I have always sought to stand by the liberal values I believe in but I have encountered this evening what many people have encountered before tonight and I suspect many people will encounter after tonight which is, in politics, you live by the sword and you die by the sword.” He said after his defeat.
“We saw that in the Brexit referendum last year and we see it here again tonight, polarised between left and right, between different regions and nations and areas of the country, but most gravely of all, this huge gulf now between young and old.
“My only plea would be to all MPs, including Jared, from all parties, is this, that we will not pick our way through the very difficult times that our country faces if in the next parliament MPs of all parties simply seek to amplify what divides them.”
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:
No more opinion polls are allowed now the election is under way but every single poll in the last 24 hours has the Labour and Conservative parties tied. Several put the two parties dead level.
Britain will have another hung parliament but it is impossible to predict this whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband will be prime minister. The rules state that Cameron stays in Downing Street until we know who can form a government. That could be weeks away.
YouGov, who produced the biggest of the final polls interviewing over 10,000 voters, predicts Labour and the Conservatives will both have 34 per cent of the vote. UKIP is on 12 per cent, the Lib Dems have 10 per cent and the SNP has 5 per cent. The SNP share will translate into 50 or so seats whilst UKIP, who will get almost two and a half times as many votes, will get fewer than five seats.
The outcome is just too close to call. If you have a vote, make sure that you cast it before 10pm tonight.
It sounds preposterous doesn’t it? Bear with me though.
Most of the polls put Labour and the Tories neck and neck with around 33% of the vote each and a forecast 280 seats. That would leave either party short of a working majority by 46 seats. Most polls put the SNP as the next biggest party with 40-50 seats. At the low end that is not enough for a two party coalition. Even if Salmond had enough seats to broker a majority, the animosity held by SNP voters for Labour in Scotland and for the Conservaties full stop would make a coalition deal nigh impossible.
Despite attracting around 15% of the popular vote the electoral system will probably deny UKIP more than 10 seats. The LibDems look like they’ll get around 25 so not enough for them to hold the balance of power this time around.
So what are we left with? A second election may produce the same result again. A three party coalition would require three parties that could work together and there are no combinations that fit that bill.
A Con Lab coalition starts to look a little more plausible doesn’t it? The fixed term parliament act provides for a five year term. The leader of the party with the higher share becomes PM. The leader of the other party steps down and his successor becomes Deputy PM in a government of national unity. These things happen in times of great strife. With chaos in Ukraine and the Middle East, the European Union rocked by the election of Syriza in Greece and the existence of the Union under enormous stress with the rise of Scottish nationalism this may be such a time.
This is the most complex general election in living memory. There is no predictable result, so an unthinkable outcome could be exactly what we get.
Whatever the outcome of the May Election there are only two leaders that can become Prime Minister. Despite falling support for both Conservative and Labout they are still the biggest parties by some margin. Almost every poll suggests that neither will get an overall majority though.
The SNP will more than likely be the next biggest party but Alex Salmond won’t form a coalition with the Conservatives and Miliband probably won’t do a deal with the SNP. Despite UKIP’s strong poll showing, that’s unlikely to translate into many seats because of the way support is distributed with very few constituency strongholds for the nationalist party. That may well leave the Liberal Democrats holding the balance of power once again. The precedent that they set in 2010 is that they will enter into discussions with the party that get’s the most popular support. It will be almost impossible for them not to adopt the same policy this time around.
Most polls are putting Labour and Conservative neck and neck, In fact the May 2015 Poll of Polls today separates them by just 0.1%. So a swing of 1% either way could decide whether or not Cameron hands the keys to Number 10 to Ed Miliband in May.