Tory MPs have already made their distaste for Prime Minister Theresa May abundantly clear: It’s widely believed that she only survived an intra-party leadership challenge last year by promising to step down before the next general election (and even then, one in three Tory MPs still voted for her ouster). And with the UK inching ever-closer to a ‘no deal’ Brexit – to the horror of pretty. much everybody except the DUP and some ERG hardliners – it’s looking increasingly likely that May won’t manage to hang on to power much longer.
According to a Bloomberg report published Friday which cited anonymous statements from May’s own aides, it’s looking increasingly likely that May will be out by the summer, giving the Tories ample time to elect a new leader in place for its next party conference in October. While one might think that the Tories would want continuity in leadership at least until the ‘Brexit Day’ dust has settled, after May’s shambolic handling of Brexit negotiations, made worse by the disastrous 2017 election campaign, which put the Tories in the untenable position of relying on the DUP – a party of 10 Irish hardliners – to maintain its tenuous majority in the Commons, many are still deeply resentful of her leadership.
May has already suffered a torrent of blows, from a steady stream of cabinet resignations over her handling of the Brexit deal, to the two humiliating leadership challenges. But after surviving the Tory leadership challenge last year, her party can’t call another one until December 2019. The defections of three Tory MPs this week in favor of the newly formed Independence Group is only the latest in the string of humiliations.
May’s immunity to a formal leadership challenge won’t stop senior members of her party from turning on her. If she doesn’t choose to resign on her own, a group of cabinet ministers are reportedly ready to make it abundantly clear that her services are no longer wanted.
Yet May’s own advisers believe this won’t stop the party removing her if it wants to do so. For example, a delegation of Cabinet ministers could march into May’s Downing Street office and tell her it’s time to go.
Rival candidates to replace May are said to have begun preparing their campaigns already.
There is likely to be a crowded field of contenders with the names most frequently mentioned including Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd. The former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson are also expected to run.
May could be out in as little as three months (though we imagine an extension of ‘Brexit Day’ could give her enough ammunition to hang on for a little longer. And with May’s popularity rating now “stubbornly low”, as the Telegraph put it, she can’t even turn to the public – who once held her in high esteem – for a way out.