May has an uphill struggle

The Prime Minister sets off on her walking holiday in the Alps with what must be a very bitter taste in her mouth.

Tuesday, 25th July 2017, 10:03 am
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 11:59 am

When she called the June 8 general election, she firmly believed that it would strengthen her position and give the Conservative Party a substantial overall majority in the House of Commons.

After all, at that time, the Tories were wallowing in a 20-point opinion poll lead.

Alas for her, that did not happen. She is in a substantially weakened position and the Tories lost their previous narrow overall majority at Westminster.

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The irony is that, while she is politically crippled, Jeremy Corbyn, who she expected to destroy, is in a far stronger position as Labour leader than before the election.

Already some Conservative MPs are demanding that she quit 10 Downing Street by Christmas at the latest. And bets are already being laid on who should be her successor, with Brexit Secretary, David Davis as the favourite.

Her situation is not quite so bad, however, as envisaged by the former Tory Chancellor, George Osborne, that she is a “dead woman walking”, but it is serious nevertheless. Corbyn and his henchmen are convinced they would win an election hands down if one were called quickly. And they could be right.

But Theresa May is made of sterner stuff than many people realise. If she weathers the present storm, she could regain the confidence of her party and carry on. She has already shown she will tolerate no trouble from her senior colleagues, warning them: “There is no such thing as an unsackable minister.”

That was reminiscent of Harold Wilson, who, when he heard that some of his colleagues were plotting his downfall, declared: “I know what is going on – I am going on.” And he did.

And the longer May goes on, the more difficult it becomes for Corbyn. There are already signs of a hard-left campaign to have “moderate” Labour MPs replaced by militant left-wingers. That would severely damage Labour if it intensifies. Even so, Theresa May is in a perilous position. And once she removes her walking boots and returns to Westminster, she has an enormous amount of work to do to stabilise her position.