Wednesday 12 December 2018

May Survives - What Now?

She won her no confidence vote, but 200 votes in favour with 117 against is pretty bad. While Theresa May didn't want the contest, it provided an opportunity for her to crush the demented europhobic wing of her party. "Drive a stake through the heart of the ERG" was some of the visceral language bandied about by the Prime Minister's bullish allies. Far from doing so, 117 no confidence votes are much higher than either the core group hostile of Moggite malcontents, or the numbers who are added to their famous WhatsApp group. As Mogg himself pointed out in the result's immediate aftermath, 140 Tory MPs are on the payroll. Assuming all of them voted loyally in the 1922 Committee's secret ballot, May can rely on fewer than half of her backbenchers. No prizes for guessing that the situation in the wider party is even grimmer.

Will May carry on? Ordinarily, no. With no support outside of parliament and under siege within it, the situation for her is as precarious as it was before pulling the vote on the withdrawal agreement. As anyone writing on politics can't resist repeating, nothing has changed. But because all we have seen is a temporary disturbance in the status quo, Macawber May returns with a vengeance. Tomorrow she nips off to see the European Council for further clarification on the deal, a meeting which is bound to be a complete waste of time because all will be quoted back at her are the very words she must know back to front by now. Still, some Tory expectations are so low that this would have been just enough to win them over.

Also, May announced at this afternoon's 1922 Committee that she wouldn't lead the Tories into another general election. Assuming we take her at face value (and you'd be pretty daft to do so these days), this gives her opponents space to stockpile support and resources ahead of the inevitable leadership contest. It shouldn't shock anyone if we somehow learn that Boris Johnson voted to support May, given that it suits him nicely for he to remain in post to soak up the punishment and the difficulties so he can later swoop in. And if that's the case for Johnson, the quarter century of Tory MPs who think they have what it takes to become leader are likely to have followed their cynical instincts too.

May then has seen off the immediate crisis to attend to the permanent crisis of the Tory party. She is no closer to winning a vote on her withdrawal, and whatever piece of paper she comes back from Brussels with won't change any minds. The only hope of salvaging something from this mess is forcing an election via a no confidence vote, the chances of which succeeding are better now than it was yesterday when the master tacticians of PLP melts, SNP, LibDems, Plaid and Caroline Lucas banded together to call for one. Yet even now, how many of them 117 would vote to bring down their government? Brexit may have driven them mad, its proximity flooding their synapses with deranged lust for their pathetic fantasy, but they are still Conservative politicians and their instincts recoil at the very thought of Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10. Nevertheless, the time is nearing where one cannot be put off for long and if the DUP are not satisfied with the assurances May comes back with, then is the time to strike.


Boffy said...

The fact that May had 117 votes against her, and that she has been mortally wounded by it shows the significance of mounting such a challenge even if you have no immediate chance of winning the vote.

Labour's message should be that May does not have the support of the opposition parties, and does not have even the support of 117 of her own members. She should go. Because the vote means that May cannot be challenged inside the Tory Party for the next year, it means necessarily that the obvious lack of confidence in May by parliament means a lack of confidence in the Tory Party itself, because for the next year, May and the Tory government are synonymous.

Had Labour been actually mobilising the social movement it promised it was going to do, and had built it around opposition to Brexit, it would by now have been able to assert a powerful force on events. It failed to do so, and should remedy that situation straight away.

Speedy said...

Two-thirds required for election. Not going to happen - why do you keep pretending it will? You're as bad as the Labour leadership - the only reason they keep putting off the no-confidence vote is that they know that following that will have to come a call for an election, which will not succeed, then a call for a referendum, which they do not want.

May will stay.
There will be no election.
There will be no real movement from the EU.
Parliament will not accept May's deal.

We are therefore left with two options: referendum or no deal.

It is conceivable that a referendum could not include the option of remaining, but that seems unlikely, and the result most likely to be no deal - who is going to campaign on a deal MPs have rejected? On the other hand, the Brextremists are likely to campaign for no deal and the (few) voters who turn up for the referendum likely to go for it.

It is really fascinating in its way - short of an alien invasion, nothing is going to put this car crash off: no deal or referendum likely to include the option of Remain. It seems likely that the amendment the House will make - as we hurtle toward no deal - will be for a referendum (what else can they say or do?). Based on a stv the result could still be close and will fail to heal any of the nation's wounds.

Anonymous said...

If Yvette Cooper had been Labour leader then May would have gone over a year ago!

Which tells you a lot about Yvette Cooper and the reason May is going nowhere!

Phil said...

Two thirds are required for an election *or* a vote of no confidence. Hence why an election is a live possibility. said...

Could they just have a referendum on May's Deal versus No Deal.

May could call that democratic and it would force remainers to vote for the least bad option alongside half-hearted brexiteers.
Better for the establishment than gambling on another leave/remain referendum

Tmb said...

This situation with a lame duck PM and a lame duck government and a lame duck political system, means that we need drastic reform. How dare she, they or anyone else hold a whole nation to ransom, like it's personal fiefdom? All the referendum has done is show the brokenness of the whole rotten system. And as the system is rotten, the people in charge seem to be rotten, too. They all have far too much power and precious little accountability. This has to change. All those who believe in democracy should reflect on that.

Captain Swing said...

The DUP will not countenance the merest sniff of a backstop. As the latter is an inevitable result of May's red lines on no free movement, no customs union, and no cozying-up to the single market, suffice it to say the Deal is already dead, dead, dead. As dead as the proverbial norwegian blue from the famous parrot sketch. To prevent the No-Deal fanatics in the ERG from achieving their objectives by counting down the clock, therefore, Remain realists in the Tory party know they must now either facilitate a general election or concede another referendum. As the former of these unappealing scenarios is pretty much inconceivable, the latter emerges increasingly as the only other means available to stop no-deal. (A third way is to suspend Article 50 and it may yet come to that. A fourth, truly catastrophic alternative, is for parliament to revoke Article 50.) The DUP meanwhile won't facilitate Labour's desire for a general election but would prefer the Labour model of withdrawal because it doesn't require a backstop. It doesn't require a backstop because it isn't really brexit, it'd amount to the softest of soft BINO (Brexit in Name Only) or (though not such a pithy acronym) RIABN. That is, Remain in all but Name. Differing only in semantics, the job of any Labour campaign in a second referendum will be to convince working Leave supporters of the virtues of he former and Remain realists of the relative merits of the latter.

Anonymous said...

To the above poster who suggested it, the HoC would have to pass any referendum bill and it is - to say the least - doubtful that a "May's deal/no deal" ballot would ever get a majority there. And that likelihood drops further with every new humiliation for our PM.

Like many other suggestions to "solve" this, its a non-starter.