Theresa May has been written off many times before and each time bounced back. She is a woman of tremendous resilience, as she has proved many times over the past two years. She proved it again this morning in the Commons, putting in an outstanding performance in a chamber which was almost totally against her. She took on allcomers for two and a half hours. And all this having learnt just a few minutes before that her Brexit Secretary and Work & Pensions Secretary had both resigned.
In my article yesterday I outlined why I could not support the deal she has been defending over the last 24 hours. We now know that twelve ministers and PPSs have so far resigned from the government today and there may be more to come. It’s clear that more MPs, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, have now sent in letters to Sir Graham Brady. I’d be astonished if the 48 number hasn’t been reached. Indeed, the PM is about to hold a press conference and it may be that she announces it herself and makes her intentions clear. Or she could even call a vote of confidence herself, like John Major did.
Theresa May’s biggest strength up to now has been that there isn’t a ready-made alternative King or Queen over the water. Boris Johnson has singularly failed to take on that mantle since his resignation in July and has lost a lot of ground.
If you look down the list of all the contenders, there are none that leap out at you and you think - yup, that’s just the man/woman to take us through Brexit.
Some commentators say that David Davis could take on that role as an interim leader, but our political system doesn’t really work that way. Does anyone think an “interim” prime minister would see themselves as “interim”. If they do the job well, the natural inclination would be to stay on. But DD might have some appeal on the principle of young cardinals vote for old Popes.
Dominic Raab’s resignation puts him firmly on the list of MPs who might well stand in a leadership election. The fact that he was the first one to resign, gives him first mover advantage. Like his mentor, David Davis’s resignation, it is seen as principled, whereas Boris’s was seen as expedient. It still is.
Let’s kill once and for all the old canard that Jacob Rees-Mogg will stand. He knows he hasn’t got the parliamentary support, even if he has among party members. Whatever you think of Jacob he is far from stupid, and would not want to embark on what could be a suicide mission. He won’t stand. End of.
If there was a leadership contest in the next few weeks, I can imagine there may be 15 or 20 contenders who might consider putting their names forward. My advice to many of them would be to stop being so delusional and grow the fuck up. If they have real friends those friends should take them aside and tell them the true state of their likely support. This needs to be a quick contest, not death by a thousand rounds of voting.
There are 7 serious contenders and they are
- Boris Johnson
- Sajid Javid
- David Davis
- Penny Mordaunt
- Michael Gove
- Dominic Raab
- Amber Rudd
If the contest were held after March 29 I think we could add several others to that list, but not now.
The Prime Minister talked about the ‘Endgame’ in the Brexit negotiations. The question is, are we about to enter the Endgame of her premiership, or will she prove again how resilient she is?