Theresa May’s grip on power is more tenuous than ever after a disastrous speech at the Conservative conference, during which she battled a serious cough while the set fell apart behind her and security allowed a comedian to rush the stage to hand the Prime Minister a P45.
She had hoped to relaunch herself on the national stage, apologising for her humiliating performance in the general election and taking responsibility for the shock defeat. She went on to announce new policies on energy prices and investment in affordable housing – both of which had a distinct whiff of Labour, perhaps as penance for the toxic social care policy wheeled out earlier in the year.
The embarrassing spectacle encapsulated the position of our lame duck Prime Minister, muddling through incompetently while chaos ensues around her. After losing the general election in June, and her authority as Prime Minister along with it, her government has been fraught with division as bitter Remoaners Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd seize on Mrs May’s weakness to push for a soft Brexit con.
Prior to the speech it was understood in Tory circles that the parliamentary party would allow the Prime Minister to stay in Downing Street for up to two years, letting her see out Brexit before being replaced in the top job. But the Telegraph is today reporting that around 30 MPs are preparing to move against the Prime Minister, with some expecting a letter calling for her resignation before Christmas.
One minister warned that “things are moving quite quickly. Conversations are being held. The plates are moving more fundamentally now. She has to decide.”
Brexit legend Nigel Farage spoke for many when he warned that “May is so useless that if she stays there will be a Jeremy Corbyn government”. As Corbyn begins to rally his once divided party following an unexpected election triumph, Theresa May struggles to bring order to the party of government.
The usual round of public sycophancy came from the usual suspects, with Europhile Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson describing Mrs May’s “battling performance” as “a metaphor for service and duty and resolution through adversity” – but only time will tell how loyal her colleagues really are behind closed doors. Boris certainly didn’t seem too impressed by the performance, being chided by Amber Rudd for failing to stand for applause.
Meanwhile, on the continent, the hard-line approach of the EU on the so-called “Brexit bill” was reinforced by the French economic minister Bruno Le Maire, who warned that “we, Europeans, say to the British: ‘We want our money back.’” Mr Le Maire must not know the UK – a huge net contributor to the EU – has paid in over half a trillion to the failing European project during our membership.
How can we British be expected to make serious progress when confronted with such profound ignorance? It’s time for the government to stop messing around and walk.