‘Dead woman walking’: Is this Theresa May’s Waterloo?


‘Dead woman walking’: Is this Theresa May’s Waterloo?

The British PM goes from one humiliation to another, and a second no-confidence vote, by her own MPs, might be the last

Camilla Tominey

For someone famed for kicking the can down the road, Theresa May’s sudden decision to push the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through parliament before the summer recess appears decisively suicidal.
While Downing Street’s quest to get the British prime minister’s deal on to the statute book before July may look like progress of sorts for Brexit, it sounds the death knell for an administration that brought about what some have described as an existential crisis for the Tories.
Having hailed her “resilience” as one of her few leadership qualities, even May’s staunchest supporters are now wondering if there is something positively masochistic about her desire to cling on to power through a summer that promises to give her a political beating at virtually every turn.
If Thursday’s showdown of the executive of the 1922 Committee doesn’t provide enough humiliation as it plots the timetable for May’s departure even if Brexit isn’t resolved, she then has to suffer the ignominy of Nigel Farage’s inevitable victory in next Thursday’s European Parliament elections.
Number 10 are desperate for May’s legacy to include “delivering on the referendum result”, but Sir Graham Brady’s increasingly impatient cohort of backbenchers is looking to write an altogether less favourable political obituary for a prime minister already described as “worse than Lord North” (the leader blamed for losing the American colonies).
The way the polls currently stand, the Conservatives coming in third behind the Brexit Party and Labour would be classed as a good result in the European elections.
No wonder MPs are taking a recess next week, with Mark Francois predicting that the results will hit the party like a “tsunami”.
At least May has a state visit from Donald Trump to look forward to in the first week of June.
The only problem is that the US president is guaranteed to say something disparaging about her handling of Brexit while meeting Boris Johnson behind her back.
June 6 is projected to bring more misery with the Peterborough by-election (caused by the ousting of disgraced Labour MP Fiona Onasanya) now widely expected to be won by Farage’s party in another drubbing for the Tories.
One senior Tory source said the result in the Leave-voting constituency would be critical. “There’s no mystery about the survival of Mrs May – as George Osborne said, she’s a dead woman walking – the question is, can the party survive?”
A week later, on June 15, the National Conservative Convention is poised to give May another political punch on the nose as 800 leading party members hold a nonbinding vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
A large majority in this vote could prompt the much-mooted 1922 rule change and lead to May facing a second no-confidence vote, this time by her own MPs.
“That week will be her Waterloo,” said one Tory MP.
Then could the G20 summit in Osaka at the end of June prove to be May’s last hurrah as an international stateswoman?
A few days later, MEPs will take their seats in the European Parliament if she has failed to get her Brexit legislation through – the ultimate humiliation for a woman who once proudly declared: “Brexit means Brexit and we're going to make a success of it.”With chancellor Philip Hammond having already called for a “quick” leadership contest and the 2019 party conference scheduled for September 29 – onlookers consider it inconceivable that Mrs May should remain in place as prime minister after the end of July.But a week is a long time in politics, and as one party insider put it: “The very essence of politics is the unexpected. She could just quit because Philip [May] turns around and says: ‘Time’s up old girl.’”– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)

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