DEBATE: Is it likely that someone will challenge Theresa May for the Conservative leadership after the recess?
As George Osborne so sweetly put it, Theresa May is “a dead woman walking”. This is just as true now as when he said it mere days after the shock election result. The Tory parliamentary party is ruthless, and erasing the memories of the June Disaster will take more than an army of new spads and a few positive announcements, such as Sajid Javid’s promise to reform the exploitative leasehold model or Chris Grayling’s surprise pledge to deliver a “green revolution”. Yes, the Conservatives would like to avoid another General Election (as would we all), but with a huge policy vacuum at the heart of the government, and a cabinet as loyal as the cast of Game of Thrones, the more pressing worry is that their party might implode. All it would take would be one bold MP from the 2010 intake with some new ideas and a few friends – and the Prime Minister could suddenly be facing a leadership battle. And remember, she never actually won the last one.
Historians may conclude that Theresa May’s career demonstrates the eternal truth expressed by the twentieth century philosopher Rocky Balboa: that sometimes, it’s not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep on moving forward. This, despite everything, is what our Prime Minister has done. One cannot help but be in awe of her tenacity, and I think that it will see her through. There may have been a time of real danger for her leadership after the election, but that time has passed. That May is better at governing than campaigning is now a Westminster truism; and the fact that she is back in the saddle making decisions and doing things makes her leadership all the more likely to continue. She’s still the best person to lead us in these troubled times. In any case, a leadership change would disrupt the vital Brexit process too much – as Barnier keeps saying, the clock is ticking.