As I See It
May’s victory was just a stay of execution
The reality is that she is mortally wounded and is now staggering on until the final denouement and it is difficult to see how she can survive beyond January. By that time Tory MPs might well be wishing they put her out of her misery when they first had the chance. Here’s why.
The vote of 200 to 117 MPs, with every Conservative member voting and no spoilt ballots or abstentions gives Theresa May a 63% to 37% win, almost two thirds are behind her – but as Labour’s Richard Burgon quickly observed almost more than a third and almost two fifths are against her.
When you are running a minority administration like Theresa May is, such a high level of dissatisfaction is not a good place to be.
A more detailed breakdown of the figures tells you why.
Firstly let’s take the Tory Party dynamic. There are 142 Conservative MPs on the payroll vote, which means that to vote against the Prime Minister they should resign their position first. None did so between the vote being called and it taking place. We should presume then that she already had 142 votes in the bag and required only 17 more to reach the simple majority of 159 votes.
There are 175 Tory backbenchers, so if all 117 votes against the PM were from that crucial group the PM has lost the support of the foot soldiers who are so important to getting the government’s business through parliament. She won only 33.2% but now faces more than two-thirds of them against her. Of course some of her payroll vote could have secretly voted against the PM – but that’s not a good thing either.
Then we have to look at what the PM pledged to do to win her victory because if she does not deliver then a rebellion will mount amongst those who backed her. Firstly, she said she will bring back some legal change to the Withdrawal Agreement’s Backstop (which has already been denied in at least three statements by the EU Commission, Chancellor Merkel and a joint statement between EU President Jean-Claude Junker and Iris Premier Leo Varadkar). The chances of her achieving anything that is more than cosmetic is slim – and anyway, opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement is about far more than the Backstop.
Secondly, she announced she would not stand as the Tory leader in the next General Election. This was to win over those that might want to see Sajid Javid or Jeremy Hunt take over from her – she was sealing off an attack from her flank but it comes at a high cost. She is now time limited with a “do not use after March 29, 2019” stamped across her forehead. Like Tony Blair after winning his third general election, it means her authority is already draining out of her arteries as she is undermined by those who are supposedly loyal seeking to take her place.
Now let’s take the Parliamentary dynamic. Of the 650 MPs there are nominally 323 opposition MPs who do not support Theresa May’s government and if you add to that number the 117 that voted against her that total becomes 450 who have no confidence in her as Prime Minister. That 69% is unprecedented and will make the Parliament unworkable. The hard reality is that the Prime Minister will find it impossible without Labour support to get her Withdrawal Agreement passed. A Prime Minister who cannot deliver on his or her legislative programme cannot survive.
If Labour chooses to vote her Deal though the DUP will support a motion of no confidence and the Government will fall.
If she fails to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Labour will move a confidence motion, and then again she is likely to lose. There are those on the left of the Tories such as Anna Soubry (who backed the PM last night) who would rather have a General Election in the hope of stopping Brexit.
After losing a Parliamentary no-confidence vote the Tories must find within two weeks a new stop-gap leader that wins the confidence of the House and can form a government – or there will be a general election. The Tories cannot afford to let May lead them into that. The party would have to have its full election of a Party leader afterwards, which is why they will come to regret not having made the change now.
Theresa May has promised to put her deal to a parliamentary vote by 21 January and cannot legally avoid that cut-off date. She is already only a Premier In Name Only (Prino). Hers was a Pyrrhic victory and the drum roll to her final removal is now being played out.