Strong and stable. That was the mantra from the Conservative party ahead of the June 2017 UK General Election. Yet after a disasterous campaign, a couple of major policy u-turns, and a hung parliament, the reality looks much more like ‘weak and wobbly’. The Prime Minister had hoped for a landslide victory to give her a strong mandate ahead of the Brexit negotiations and instead she’s lost David Cameron’s majority.
Theresa May has been described as a ‘dead woman walking’ leading a ‘zombie government’. Nevertheless, her position in the short term looks (perversely) quite healthy, simply because the Tories are now terrified of a resurgent Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. She has defied political gravity and clung on, despite even her much-criticised response to the Grenfell Tower disaster. But for how long can she stay in power?
We had a comment from Catherine, who thinks “there will have to be another vote in the Autumn”. Is that likely? To get a response, we put her comment to Anand Menon, Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King’s College London and Director of the UK in a Changing Europe. What would he say?
Well, if I’ve learnt anything about politics in the last year, it’s that I’m not going to do predictions anymore. But what I will say is that it’s perfectly possible. What it ultimately depends on is what Conservative MPs think. My own feeling is that Theresa May is so weak that they’ll probably decide to keep her for a while because they can’t decide who would replace her and the government is unstable because it doesn’t have a majority. My guess is that if the election had lead to a Conservative majority of 15 or so, she’d be gone and we’d have a new leader. At the moment, it suits them to keep her there, and the question is how long it does suit them. The one thing I think is clear is that we will have a new Conservative leader before we have a new election. They’re not going to let Theresa May lead them into a new election, I think.
We also had a comment from Rosy, who belives one consequence of the vote is that there is now no mandate for ‘Hard Brexit’ anymore. Is she right?
The problem with the referendum, politically, is that there isn’t a majority for anything. There’s no majority for staying in the European Union. There’s no majority for a ‘Soft Brexit’ and there’s no majority for a Hard Brexit. And that’s why Brexit is going to be fundamentally very, very divisive. Now, in Parliament, a lot of people have said we now have a Soft Brexit majority. That may or may not be the case. That depends on how Parliament votes. If you remember our referendum, straight after our referendum loads of commentators were saying that they voted to Leave but there’s a massive majority in the House of Commons against Brexit, so they’ll block it. And the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50. So, we don’t know what there’s a majority for until they’re called to vote and we know the politics. So, it’s far too soon to say that even in Parliament there’s a strong majority for Brexit.
Should Britain have another election? Is a new government better than a weak government? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!