Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Now is the time - but has anyone told Tory MPs?

If nothing else, what today has revealed is just how blatantly the rules for Tory leadership challenges are slanted to help an incumbent leader survive.  We maybe lost sight of that because the same rules were successfully used to topple Iain Duncan Smith in 2003, but he was of course the most hapless Tory leader in post-war history.  Think of how differently things would be playing out under the rules that applied thirty years ago - ie. an automatic annual leadership election in which any MP could stand if they had a proposer and seconder.  We'd be straight into a battle between Boris Johnson and Theresa May (and possibly others) in which the candidates would have parity of esteem, and May's deficiencies would be cruelly exposed.  She'd probably lose.

As it is, she isn't standing against anyone, so the vote today has become a simple matter of loyalty or disloyalty in the leader.  No wonder so few MPs have been willing to stick their heads above the parapet and say publicly that they are voting to remove her.  That has sucked some of the momentum out of the anti-May drive, a problem exacerbated by the fact that the leadership were in effective control of the timetable of the vote, and chose the ultra-quick option so that wavering MPs have no time to think.  The leadership also effectively controlled the timing of the announcement of the vote, allowing for a choreographed 'shock and awe' campaign of endorsements for the PM early this morning.  The TV news dutifully reported all of that, as if Cabinet ministers supporting their own leader was somehow surprising or significant.

On the other hand, we won't know for sure until the result is announced, and secret ballots of Tory MPs do sometimes throw up wild surprises.  Most famous is the 1975 example, in which large numbers of MPs who had publicly endorsed Edward Heath must have quietly voted for Mrs Thatcher.  And in 1997, the scale of William Hague's victory over Kenneth Clarke took everyone by surprise.  We'll see.  Given what happened on the evening of the EU referendum, I would certainly caution everyone not to read too much into the calmness of the financial and betting markets.

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  1. If the worst possible outcome won't occur, the dumbest possible outcome will.

    So says anyone who has paid attention to politics in the UK in the past four years.

  2. So, Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems, the SNP and even 37% of Tory MPs have no confidence in May's administration, but Jeremy Corbyn's Labour does?

    May continues to rule thanks to her little Brexiter elf Corbyn. If she leads us off a cliff it will be because Corybn helped her with the directions.

    1. Only a hard brexit will suffice for the UK and even an independent Scotland. SCOTLAND should never be under the boot of the EU unelected Mafia.

    2. At 59% Yes for independence in the event of a hard Brexit, I suppose at least your first scentence is sort of correct.