‘Tis summer reception season in Westminster; the time of year when magazines, newspapers and think tanks crack out the Prosecco and pray that most of the cabinet turns up. One of them this week saw the prime minister issue a stark warning to her colleagues:
“No backbiting, no carping. The choice is me or Jeremy Corbyn – and no one wants him.”
It’s amazing that so many untruths can be packed into so few words. First off, just to get it out of the way, while I certainly don’t want Jeremy Corbyn to be PM and I think all of the parliamentary Conservative party will join me in that feeling, the plain truth is that “no one wants him” simply isn’t true. 40% of the country voted Labour, and the “choice” she offers her MPs makes no sense at all if no one wants him, making the second portion of the second sentence above directly cancel out the logic of the first part.
But more to the point, the entirety of her sentiment is untrue and everyone (including May, I suspect) knows it. The government has just passed a Queen’s Speech and doesn’t need another until summer, 2019. We have the Fixed Term Parliament in place, something Westminster hacks still struggle with after all these years, which means that the Tories could lose vote after vote after vote in the House of Commons without another general election being anything like automatic. As she herself is testament to, just because a governing party changes leader sometime after a general election has been and gone does not mean you have to hold another general election. Thus, the choice is surely between May, Corbyn and an array of other Tory possibilities.
While I can see why the current arrangements suit most of the major players in the Conservative Party, at least for the time being, it is highly dysfunctional. This would mean much less if the country wasn’t currently trying to extract itself from the European Union. Let Davis be PM and carry the can for the whole Brexit thing himself – oh wait, perhaps I’ve just hit upon the real reason Theresa May is still in Number 10.