DEBATE: Does Britain now have a Prime Minister who is in office without being in power?

Theresa May Visits Northern Ireland And Wales In A Bid To Save Her Brexit Deal
Exhausted, beleaguered, and at the mercy of hostile MPs... (Source: Getty)

Does Britain now have a Prime Minister who is in office without being in power?


Olivia Utley, deputy editor at TheArticle, says YES.

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, she promised to be all things to all people. To Remainers, the pragmatist who would keep Brexit damage to a minimum; to Leavers, the leader who would turn their dreams into reality.

And, by kicking every important decision on Brexit into the long grass, May has managed to keep them all (just about) on side for two years.

But now the grass has been mowed – and the game is up. MPs have turned on the Prime Minister in their droves, furious that she has failed to deliver on her myriad contradictory promises.

Parliament, as the three defeats of last Tuesday proved, has wrested control of Brexit from her grasp. And, as we discovered yesterday, she is not even going to put up a fight.


Exhausted, beleaguered, and at the mercy of hostile MPs who feel that they have been duped, May might be in office – for now – but she is certainly not in power.

Alex Deane, a Conservative commentator, says NO.

You can pull the fire alarm before sitting an exam that you think (or, in some cases, know) you’re going to fail, but you’re going to have to sit the exam eventually.

Still, it can buy you time – time in which to seek to affect the outcome (whether it be last-minute revision or last-minute negotiation), and time to continue to occupy your post of honour (whether it be head girl or Prime Minister).

Indeed, in Theresa May’s case, it will most likely see you all the way to Christmas, which in modern politics constitutes long-term planning.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister continues to hold all of the formal levers of government – from giving negotiation instructions to political patronage – and she will use them.

Every delay makes the so-called “people’s vote” demand of a second referendum less likely, and favours May’s deal, with all its flaws, given that the comparison is increasingly leaving the EU with no deal, on WTO terms, as the only alternative.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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