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But what if May survives? July 12, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I’ve wondered this myself – there’s a lot of talk about how the next election in the UK will be soon and sudden. But… for all that May has assembled a confidence and supply mechanism, has a majority consequently in the Commons and is still PM. And for all the mockery, much of it deserved – particularly in relation to the hubris exhibited by the Tories and May prior to the election, it is worth keeping in mind that she won an historically relatively high percentage of votes (as by the way did Corbyn – everyone was getting prizes at this last election, bar the Liberal Democrats. Even the SNP who took a pasting are still by a significant margin the largest party in Scotland). Janan Ganesh writes:

She is one scandal or misjudgment from oblivion. But the Tories’ intent turns out to be sincere: they really do want to sustain this unsustainable premiership for a matter of years, not months, perhaps until the scheduled date of Britain’s exit from the EU in 2019. So sure to be among the shortest-serving prime ministers two weeks ago, May can now hope for a tenure in line with James Callaghan, Anthony Eden and other postwar occupants.

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that her government could survive a year, perhaps two. Look at the situation in the state many of us live in – an unloved and unlovable Fine Gael kept in power despite being a much more precarious minority by an arrangements with Fianna Fáil. And for all the talk last year when this temporary little arrangement was cobbled together, well, on it goes. We’re still here.

And that’s perhaps worth keeping in mind, that the benefits of the status quo and of stasis are sometimes under appreciated. I’m always a bit wary of anthropomorphising electorates – many of us will recall the old line about how the Irish electorate was the most intelligent in the world and so on when the evidence wasn’t necessarily that robust that that was the case, but in some ways a weakened May and the Tories, is a best case scenario for quite a lot of people. Not least the BLP who have had to fudge their own divisions over Brexit – divisions which see most of that party strongly pro-Remain, and at a pinch willing to sustain a soft Brexit, with a much smaller minority in favour of a hard Brexit.

And Ganesh points to another reason for May hanging on in there…

Inertia takes many forms but tends to happen for one reason. When a lifeless marriage lasts for decades, when a job is dire but its holder keeps showing up, it is for want of alternatives. Tories have cast around their number, examined candidates to replace May and concluded that rumours of their mediocrity are, if anything, too kind.

Indeed he makes an excellent point, that none of the supposed contenders are much good at all. None, bar the remarkably bland (and famously Remain supporting) Hammond, have served in any of the heavy duty cabinet positions and all are odd to the point of eccentricity.

The least worst candidates for the job are both women and both hamstrung by circumstance. Ruth Davidson has no Westminster seat and no reason to walk away from the electoral gains to which she has led the Scottish Tories. Amber Rudd, the home secretary, retained her own seat by a gossamer-fine margin. The permanent campaign to hold it would create a distracting drama for a national leader. She also has May’s slimness of experience, if more underlying talent.

This, then, is the field arranged against the prime minister. A stoppable force against a moveable object.

And so there’s no one – as of yet – anywhere near ready to take up the reins of power. May proves fortunate in her rivals.

And Ganesh points to one final reason for keeping May. That Brexit, as with most referendums (at least those not focused on clear constitutional initiatives), is an open question. There’s no single Brexit, no single agreed definition. No clarity as to how to proceed. It’s all about the interpretation.

How much better to leave that herculean task to May. And two, perhaps three, years down the road all will be better. Or different. Or something. Well, fingers crossed if you’re a Tory. Or anyone else for that matter.

They’re going to need optimism. And lots of it.

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Comments»

1. Alibaba - July 12, 2017

The strongest argument in favour of keeping May is you don’t change the rider in the Brexit race. And ‘How much better to leave that herculean task to May’ makes sense to me. But I still lean to the view that if she keeps falling at the fences as she gallops from one crisis to another, the Tory plotters will shaft her anyway. 

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irishelectionliterature - July 12, 2017

Yes , she’s damaged goods and Brexit will surely only damage her and the Tories further. In a way it’s a case that she made the bed , let her lie in it (although Cameron, Johnson etc put the bed together) . Nobody wants to take over.
They still don’t know what they exactly want from Brexit , nor indeed what they are likely to get. It’s highly possible that there will be very few actually satisfied with the outcome.
Labour , for all Corbyns popularity now, surely don’t want to go into government during the Brexit negotiations as it will be they who would reap the whirlwind of whatever deal is agreed, never mind that they are split over it.
Labour too, would do well to ignore the polls as much as possible.

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2. sonofstan - July 12, 2017

Given the unpredictability of almost everything that has happened since the last election but one (2015), it would be foolish to confidently predict anything at all.
I mean, two years ago would the phrase ‘Jeremy Corbyn, most popular politician in Britain’ have sounded plausible in any context?

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3. Joe - July 12, 2017

I’d say Labour would love an election and wants to be in power. But be careful what you ask for. It would be some test of Corbyn to be in charge of the Brexit negotiations. He’s in favour of Brexit, the Labour Party is in favour of Brexit. If he managed to make it work, he could be PM for a decade!

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GW - July 13, 2017

Big if. Can’t see it myself but as SoS notes things are so unpredictable…

And that’s the only reason the Tories would go for another election – to hand the poisoned chalice to Corbyn.

Labour can only fudge the Brexit issue for so long.

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Joe - July 14, 2017

But Labour aren’t fudging the Brexit issue are they? They are pro-Brexit. They are of course criticizing the Tory government’s ham-fisted (to put it mildly) efforts at negotiating Brexit. But on the issue itself Labour’s line is ‘Yes to Brexit but under us, it will be a better Brexit’.

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Joe - July 14, 2017
GW - July 14, 2017

The problem is that many of Labour’s swing voters (especially the young) are anti-Brexit. As the Brexit farce continues this contingent will grow.

I know we differ on this point, but the evidence increasingly points to whatever Brexit being a bad deal for wage and benefit dependent people. See the current attempt to erode workers and human rights with the repeal bill.

The Tories will very happily transfer the damage to the Labour party, even, I suspect, if it means loosing an election.

Labour needs to be very careful here, and be prepared to be flexible on the final ratification in Parliament in 2019.

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WorldbyStorm - July 14, 2017

That’s definitely a problem, as is the sense some in the BLP don’t much care about whether it is a hard or soft Brexit, but the distinction is crucial for us on thus island – have to say the mood music from Corby/Barnier/Stermer yesterday was good and it would appear a softer form is being envisaged. However a stumbling block is freedom of movement at least in relation to EEA/EFTA membership or something as near as makes no difference (I’m intrinsically suspicious of the North/BOoker axis but on this I think they are right, in all practical ways that EEA/EFTA option us he only sensible one) . I guess we will see.

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4. Jim Monaghan - July 13, 2017

I wonder how many Tory dissidents would risk an election. And even here, how many TDs want to risk their seats and spend a fortune on an election.

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