Shockwaves from the speech disaster are still feel being felt. Grant Shapps was on Radio 4 this morning, urging an immediate leadership contest. “We can’t go on like this” he said. While Tory MPs are loath to have an election for a new leader just this second, May is starting to make it more likely than not. Yet there is one way she can possibly save herself and buy her party some time: she needs to reshuffle the cabinet, big time and right now.
The logic for this is that she moves aside some deadwood (Boris and let’s face it, several others) in order to make room for the next generation. This is so some fresh faces get some government experience, widening the field for who can become the next Tory leader. There are several problems with having a leadership contest right now, but one of them is that all of the newer, younger MPs who might be able to resuscitate the Conservative Party aren’t in the cabinet at present, so having them contend to be prime minister would be a huge stretch. May needs to solve this problem for her party by picking a few of the best and brightest and giving them reasonably high profile briefs.
This way there is also an excuse for her hanging around that isn’t just inertia: she is preparing the ground for the next Tory premiership to be a success. Since June 2017, she has been terrified of moving anyone lest it trigger her downfall – she needs to get out of that mind set. If she stays where she is she might well be gone before Christmas; bringing the next generation into the cabinet so that one of them can become PM gives the remainder of her premiership some residual meaning. As I’ve said before, the Tories still have the bandwidth to turn things around and prevent Jeremy Corbyn from becoming prime minister; that’s no use to them if they don’t use any of it. If they stay where they are, they really are doomed. May needs to realise sooner rather than later that this need not be the case.