Friday, 9 June 2017

Jubulation vs. reality

Labour lost the general election. It remains to be see whether a party led by Jeremy Corbyn can ever command a larger share of the national vote than the Tories, let alone whether Corbyn could then effectively govern, either in a minority or majority Government.

The Liberal Democrats had a dismal night, adding a handful of seats but losing vote share. Had they done even reasonably well a number of marginals, such St Ives, Richmond Park and Lewes, Theresa May would not now be PM.

Similarly, the SNP fall left the door open for May to stay on.

So ... May will be PM. Conventional wisdom suggests she is a lame duck, since she will, at some point during this Parliament, be replaced by someone the Tories believe can win a General Election. You don't run such a dismal campaign, against such a (from a Tory perspective) weak opponent and get to stay on as Leader of the Party.

and yet ... The immediate danger, to May, has passed. She will, in a few minutes time, be Prime Minister as well. Clearly if there were a body of Conservative MPs who wanted her to go immediately, at 5am this morning, so may well have been toast. The longer she survives, the harder it will be to replace her while the Brexit negotiations are ongoing. Like a trauma patient, the first minutes and hours are the critical ones. She's pulled through. So long as she doesn't suffer relapse over the next few days she's probably PM for another 2 years, at least.

Again, going back to conventional wisdom, at some point after the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations, she resigns or is defenestrated and the Tories get someone they think is a winner. Presumably that person goes to the country with Brexit, in whatever form, secured. Unless the Lib Dems get a leader and/or Corbyn expands his base of support, the Tories could conceivably secure another 5 year term.

Presumably Brexit is a messy fudge, probably not much of a Brexit at all. Clarke, Soubry, Grieve and Morgan are all still Tory MPs, and strongly pro-Remain. There are plenty of others. The DUP (read the Manifesto) very much want their cake and also want to eat it (hilariously they want to quit the EU yet still access the funds that the EU offers to the regions). May simply doesn't have the votes for 'Hard' Brexit (and she probably doesn't want Hard Brexit anyway, though it is entirely possible she has no clue what she wants and is just busking it).

[Of course, there's a significant chance that the EU imposes Hard Brexit on us. Refusing to sign any deal, but also refusing the extend the negotiations. I think that this result reduces the probability of that, as there's nothing the EU likes better than a fudge, and this new 'Government' has fudge written all over it] 

and yet ... What if the unthinkable happens? What if May somehow manages to negotiate a Brexit deal with deftness that most of the country can buy into? The odds are massively against her, but can she somehow cobble together a 'coalition' (not in the formal sense) of Tories, the DUP and Labour Brexiters willing to back a real Brexit? What if pro-Remain Tories focus on keeping power rather than undermining May? What if, and this is the biggest "what if?" to swallow, May demonstrates that she can, after all, campaign, and has a message.

It seems implausible, but if May can somehow lead in a Presidential manner, change her style and get a Brexit deal done (no tall order there), she could yet survive as Tory leader and win an election.

Hard to believe, but so is everything else in politics.

[Mind you. She looks tired and demoralised. Does she want this? Might she not quit in six months time and leave the work to someone else? Who knows?]

In the meantime, the good news is that grammar schools and ditching the Human Rights Convention are presumably off the table. May isn't going to pick any difficult political fights with an effective majority of less than 10.

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