Many in the Cameron camp thought that May would be the continuity candidate. Sure, she’d have to give a lot of jobs to Eurosceptics in the wake of the Leave vote, but it would be a show of reconciliation from within the same basic camp within the Tory party. But that is not how it turned out. May got rid of the Cameroons, whether they were leavers or remainers – George Osborne and Michael Gove being the two most obvious examples.
It’s never a great idea when taking the mantle as leader of your party while it is in government to do too much of a clear out of the old brigade all in one go. The reason for this is straightforward: you are filling your backbenches with too much latent talent. You have these ex-ministers, with all of the knowledge and experience that brings, essentially free to do and say what they like since it is evident that under the current regime they will never again be promoted. In fact, the only way they could possibly get another ministerial job without a change of leadership would be by being as annoying as possible to the prime minister and thus earning themselves a promotion simply to keep them in line again.
In any situation all of the above paragraph would be true. However, May also has the added burden of a tiny majority to work with as well as have to navigate the most fuckupable thing in the history of human civilisation in Brexit.
The MPs on the backbenches lurking, waiting for it to crumble for May, represent a powerful potential force. Yes, the EU referendum campaign tore apart the Gove and Osborne wings of it, but if that could be reconciled, the possibilties could be terrifying for May. Osborne can say “I told you so” if Brexit has any hiccups, while Gove can say play it Farage-style, intimating that if he’d been PM it would have all gone smoothly.
It was a mistake for May to have booted Osborne and Gove out of government altogether. Gove should have stayed where he was in Justice and Osborne Foreign Secretary – the punishment in having to corral Fox and Davis and the accompanying debasement of the position as a result would have been steep in and of itself. She couldn’t have had all remainers in the top four positions obviously, so she should have made Priti Patel Home Secretary. Given Amber Rudd has appeared to have relinquished her previous liberal mind set in an attempt to recant on her vociferously pro-Remain position pre-June 23rd, May might as well have got full bang for her buck on the Home Office front and installed someone who wouldn’t have had to put out ludicrous plans around foreign workers lists in order to be taken seriously as a hard ass.
Time will tell whether or not this turns out to be a problem for May’s premiership. I have a sneaking suspicion that it just may do eventually.