BY JAMIE FOSTER
If Theresa May is remembered for one thing it will be holding on past the point any other Prime Minister would have resigned. Her deal has been rejected three times by the House of Commons by numbers so large as to question confidence in her leadership. She has survived a no confidence vote on her leadership. She has twice asked for the delay to Brexit which she repeatedly said would not take place. Her party is split, the country is split. She has more than enough reasons to go and yet she holds on. The big question is why? Why would someone whose skill set clearly doesn’t match up to the challenges they are faced with see the light and resign? It is an unanswerable question. No wonder May is now known as “Fingernails” by her Tory colleagues – she’s certainly holding on by them.
Theresa May’s deal is not only highly unpopular. It is also a very bad deal in its own right. It is the result of one sided pressure from the EU, who took charge of the negotiations and whose will was enforced at every turn. Having been pushed into a deal that was bad for Britain she then showed spectacular political myopia by believing she could persuade the House to vote for it. During her premiership she has shown this same out of touchness on several occasions. It is as if she is completely unaware of any point of view other than her own.
Finally starting talks with Corbyn on a way forward looked like an afterthought. It was far too late to be taken seriously as a strategy. A Westminster insider tells us that her decision to have contact with Corbyn has had a more alienating effect on her own MPs and the party in the country than even her withdrawal agreement had. It doesn’t matter what the outcome of the talks is it will be seen as another surrender. On the other hand Labour is in an excellent position during the talks. If no progress is made they can continue to say it is because the Government isn’t listening and won’t change course. If any progress is made they can say the Government has moved in their direction. For May it is simply another ritual humiliation in the Brexit process that she must endure.
May’s entire premiership has been defined by Brexit. As a Remainer this is particularly ironic. It will be seen as an abject failure of leadership. What is needed is a new pair of hands to take over the reins. It is time that a Brexiteer was put in charge of the process. We need someone who fundamentally believes in Brexit to oversee it not someone who is doing it despite herself. As with every leader who loses authority when they announce their immanent resignation May became a lame duck leader when she announced she wouldn’t stay on until the next election. Now people are just waiting for the moment when she leaves. This leaves a very destabilising situation where her senior colleagues, instead of concentrating on their jobs, spend time posturing as leaders in waiting. Everyone is waiting their moment to pounce.
So we are stuck with a leader who has run out of ideas and whose only continuing rationale is to hang on, limpet like, in the hope that time will bring relief from the constant battering that she has received. The other effect of this grim determination to cling to power is that it makes the rest of her party look as ineffectual as she is because they can’t get rid of her. The EU know that they can bully her but do not trust her because they know she has no control over her own party and the situation at home is out of hand.
It is time that she stood aside and let someone else take up the challenge of leading the country through Brexit. Despite the fact that it is a poison chalice there will still be enough takers to run for leadership. What is needed is a fresh energy from a committed Brexiteer who really believes in Brexit. There is no more mileage in an embattled premier who commands no respect from any quarter. Her party is telling her the time to go has arrived and it is time she listened to them.