So Theresa May survived…for now.
Last night a secret ballot of Tory MPs voted 200 to 117 in favour of keeping May on as leader. However as a concession she has now said she won’t contest another general election for the Tories.
Bluntly, I am no fan of Theresa May. But had she lost the confidence vote last night, I really don’t know who in the Conservative Party would have replaced her. And while there is plenty wrong with the exit deal she has negotiated, the reality is the exit deal with the EU was never going to be on strong terms for the UK. Lets recap…
In 2016 a referendum was held in the UK on membership of the EU. Then PM David Cameron and the political establishment didn’t bother to do any modelling of what would happen if people voted to leave, as they arrogantly assumed people would vote to remain. The establishment f%#ked up.
Cameron resigns as PM when the Brexit result is announced. May is elected Tory leader shortly after as the compromise candidate both pro and anti EU Tory MPs could get behind. Contrast that to the “unelectable” Corbyn who most Labour MPs hated, she was seen as a sound option. After months of strong polling in April 2017 May calls an early election, expecting to do what Thatcher did in 1983 – romp home and destroy the Labour Party. What did happen, “unelectable Corbyn” significantly increased Labour’s vote. The how’s and why’s can be argued for hours on how this happened. But the simple facts are that May, her advisors and the establishment in both Labour and the Conservatives thought May would win big and Corbyn would be toast – and once again the arrogance of the political class was shown up by the voting public.
So the last 18 months have been a painful trainwreck where the Tory government are at open war with itself*. Where the DUP (the topic of a future post) are relied on for numbers. Negotiations with the EU are difficult, mostly because the UK is very deeply divided over what should happen. The 27 EU member states by contrast are united in tough negotiation stance, mostly to discourage other EU nations from leaving . May comes back with a deal, and has to delay the vote in the House of Commons she doesn’t have the numbers to get the deal through parliament. Yesterday she survives a confidence vote, but 1/3 of her MPs vote against her.
As yesterday’s post stated, anything could happen now. The parliamentary arithmetic make getting this, or any other EU exit deal through the commons very challenging. Could another referendum take place? Maybe. Would this reverse the 2016 Brexit result? Possibly, but possibly not. Would another campaign of Tony Blair et el telling people how great the EU is actually increase the Brexit vote? Quite probably.
Again the topic for another post, but the impacts of Brexit on Northern Ireland and Scotland, who both voted strongly to remain in the EU, should be considered. Certainly for Scotland, EU membership was a significant factor in the 2014 independence referendum result.
A no deal Brexit would be difficult for the economy. But going into Christmas and the New Year not knowing whether a deal, no deal, a second referendum or some other outcome (eg delaying the March 29th deadline) will happen is doing damage. In many ways its the political instability and lack of clarity which will do the most harm to the UK economy. It would be a brave pundit who predicts now how this will end. But arrogance and the inability to compromise for the greater good will likely continue as themes of this Brexit saga.
*Much could also be written about the internal differences within UK Labour – this again is possibly for another post.