THE Telegraph tells us that Mrs May’s day of destiny has arrived. The clincher this time being Jeremy Hunt’s withdrawal of support yesterday for her Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
‘In a pivotal meeting on Thursday’, Gordon Rayner and Steven Swinford reported that ‘the Foreign Secretary made it clear to the Prime Minister she must abandon the deeply unpopular plan on which her hopes of survival rested’ and that ‘Mrs May had agreed to announce the timetable of her departure after a vote on the Brexit ‘divorce’ Bill next month, but after she cancelled that vote her reason for remaining as Tory leader also fell away’.
It left the Prime Minister, they say, ‘cornered’ as she prepared to meet Sir Graham Brady, her most senior backbencher, this morning to discuss her future.
The Times also reported that May is set to resign as Conservative leader today, clearing the way for a new prime minister to be in post by the end of July.
‘Mrs May will remain in No 10 during a leadership election lasting about six weeks, and may even try to pass part of her Brexit deal. The contest is likely to start on June 10 after the state visit by President Trump.’
I will be glad to be proved wrong in my predictions and apologise to Laura Kuenssberg if this afternoon Mrs May does indeed announce her resignation as leader of the Conservative Party to allow a contest to elect her successor to begin early next month. We will soon know.
The wording of the BBC’s report this morning was careful: ‘Senior ministers have told the BBC that they expect Prime Minister Theresa May to announce on Friday her plan to quit Downing Street and trigger a leadership contest in the Conservative Party. While there has been no official confirmation from No 10, she met two members of her cabinet on Thursday – Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Home Secretary Sajid Javid – who told Mrs May they had concerns about her new plan for taking the UK out of the European Union.’
Whatever the numbers in Sir Graham Brady’s envelope in his pocket, should she brazen it out this morning they can’t remove her without another vote of no confidence. I suspect she is weighing it up. The Telegraph too acknowledged that ‘sources close to Mrs May insisted she had not indicated whether she has made a final decision on her future’.
And she has all to lose if she resigns – the outcome will be ignominy and no future. She may think that no other members of her Cabinet following Andrea Leadsom out of the door and a bevy of MPs – even of the stature of Jesse Norman – so ready to accept jobs in her mini-reshuffle are grounds for carrying on. And who knows what her civil servant minders are advising? Still being in situ till July, they may think, allows sufficient time for a version of Withdrawal Agreement Bill to be debated that, with a second referendum dangled in front of a remainer Parliament, would be passed; thus allowing her to leave with her job of ‘delivering Brexit’ (i.e. destroying it) done. That is the risk that the papers are not considering.
Experience tells me to continue to play devil’s advocate, not just with respect to the day the door of Downing Street finally shuts behind Kim May but whether it will close the door on the WA too.
If as is likely she stays as caretaker PM – the critical question becomes for how long? In order to get her to agree to go, she will be allowed to set the terms?
So we are still counting the days – much as we hope that today will be the last – to her actual departure.
Today is Day 50 . . .