May Resign

Theresa May at the October 2016 Tory conferenceTheresa May resigned today, 2 years, 10 months, and 12 days after she became leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

There will now be an election to choose our next Prime Minister.

Only the 313 Tory MPs get to vote, in what may well seem like an endless run-off until there are two candidates left standing. At that point, unless one candidate resigns, the Conservative Party membership get to vote to decide between the two. Their average age is 57, they are overwhelmingly Brexiters, and they like Boris Johnson.

The last Tory leadership contest ended abruptly as Tory MPs realised the Opposition had chosen to respond the disturbance of David Cameron’s resignation by launching an unsuccessful coup to get rid of their own leader, and – unable to believe their good fortune – got everyone else out of the way so that Theresa May could become PM and the Tories could watch Labour writhing in their own chaos.

Theresa May has been dreadful. If you think she was a bad choice, you are warmly invited to consider whether Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Stephen Crabb, or disgraced former Defence Minister Dr Liam Fox would actually have been any better.

My expectation is:

– No one with the capacity to serve as Prime Minister and shepherd the UK through the 7 years or so of excruciating financial and social depression during which Parliament and the civil service do nothing else but focus on Brexit, would possibly want the job when they could sit by themselves in a corner and hit themselves over the head with a hammer any time they wanted.

– No one who would stop Brexit by revoking Article 50 could possibly get elected, since the final say is the members’ vote and they won’t elect someone who’s said they’ll stop Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn 2017Various people have been heard calling plaintively for a General Election, apparently forgetting that since 2011, we don’t have readily-dissolvable Parliaments, we have the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.

For there to be a general election instead of a Tory leadership election, either one of the following two things would have to happen.

One: if the government loses a vote of no-confidence and in a fortnight’s time a new government capable of winning a confidence vote can’t be formed.

The current state of the parties in the Commons: Labour (246), Scottish National Party (35), Liberal Democrat (11), Plaid Cymru (4), and Caroline Lucas (Green), would all have to vote no-confidence in the government: that’s 297 votes, but the Conservatives have 313.

What if every single Change UK MP voted against the government? That’s 308 votes – and the three formerly-Tory CUK MPs have said they won’t vote no-confidence against their former party.

There are still 10 DUP MPs who have agreed to vote with the Tories for confidence and supply. And I doubt if any of them want a general election that puts an end to their influence in the UK government.

Corbyn may hope that Change UK will switch sides to make him Prime Minister – but I doubt it. Corbyn may hope that the DUP will abstain on their confidence-and-supply agreement to make him Prime Minister – but I doubt it. Corbyn is hoping that about two dozen Tory MPs will vote to bring down their government some time soon, and then once the government has fallen, will vote again in a fortnight for a general election.

The summer recess is due to start in June or July – the date hasn’t been published yet. There will be no votes of no-confidence while the Commons isn’t sitting, and it won’t sit again until September, when they will have a few days debate before recessing again for a full month during conference season. During all this time the leadership election can continue – indeed, Conservatives probably regard the deadline for completion of their leadership election to be their autumn conference (Manchester, 29th September – 2nd October 2019) so that the new Prime Minister can give a speech on their plans for the future.

The UK exit date from the EU will be 30 days or so after the new Prime Minister’s speech at the Conservatives’ autumn conference.

Tory membership don’t like the Withdrawal Agreement and appear to be even more likely than the general public to think No Deal Brexit will be just fine. Boris Johnson will certainly have no compunction about promising them anything to get their votes. But the EU have made clear they won’t re-open negotiations.

I see no likelihood, in all of this, for even a dozen Tory MPs to decide they want to prorogue Parliament and fight a general election leaderless.

Two: The other way to get a General Election is for 434 MPs – that is, at least 130 Tory MPs as well as MPs of all other parties – to vote to have one. This is not going to happen either.

We ran out of time already to have a second EU referendum before 31st October, and the Tories certainly aren’t going to legislate one while choosing a new Prime Minister.

On 31st October 2019, if nothing is done to prevent it, the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

And there is surprisingly little Parliament can do to prevent it, if the Prime Minister wants a no-deal Brexit.

Brexit is the Balrog. And we have no chance at all of a Prime Minister to stand on the bridge and assert “You shall not pass!”

Better start stockpiling now for the winter.

“Please do not waste this time.” – Donald Tusk, April 2019

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