Conservative Party MPs were on the horns of a dilemma today (Tuesday, December 12, 2018).
Backbenchers have triggered a vote of “no confidence” in their leader, Prime Minister Theresa May, saying they no longer have any faith in her ability to deliver an acceptable Brexit deal with the European Union.
In response, Mrs May has also said the vote will be all about Brexit, claiming that it will be impossible to withdraw from the EU on time if she is removed from office.
Considering the reception her deal has received, that will be an incentive for MPs to vote against her in the ballot between 6-8pm this evening.
The majority of MPs don’t want Mrs May’s version of Brexit. They know it will wreck the economy, harm citizens’ well-being and therefore harm their chances of being re-elected in a future general election. If they have any hope of being returned to Parliament in the future, they need to remove her from office.
Mrs May’s claim that this is not about a future general election is wrong too.
Additionally, MPs need to bear in mind the fact that their (current) leader has just returned empty-handed from a junket between EU leaders, launched after she “postponed” a vote in Parliament on her Brexit deal – that she knew she was going to lose. She said she was delaying it in order to get concessions and/or reassurances on areas of dispute, but obviously this has not happened.
It means that she has proved herself to be the useless negotiator that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said she is – fulfilling the opposition leader’s requirement for him to launch a vote of ‘no confidence’ – in Parliament – against her government.
It seems clear that, under these conditions, a Conservative government led by Mrs May would lose such a vote. It would trigger two weeks in which opposition parties could try to form a government that has the confidence of Parliament (unlikely), followed by a general election which would take around a month to complete.
This negates Mrs May’s plea that, if she is removed from office by her own MPs, the Brexit process will be undermined; if she stays in office, the Brexit process will be undermined anyway. In fact, if the Tories remove her themselves, Brexit is likely to be delayed by a shorter period of time.
And what actually happens if she is removed?
Candidates for the leadership will line up to take part in a selection process in which Conservative MPs will vote in several “elimination” rounds until they are left with two candidates who can command a large amount of support. These would then go on to an election involving the entire Tory Party membership across the UK.
They would have to campaign, making statements in support of their candidacy.
It seems likely – to This Writer – that Conservatives would insist on a full, contested election this time. In 2016, Mrs May became leader after other candidates withdrew and the result has been a disaster for her party and the country.
Think of the 2017 general election that she announced in the belief that she would annihilate the Labour Party but which resulted in the annihilation of her own Parliamentary majority.
All of these elements should be running through Conservative MPs’ minds at the moment.
Their effects on those MPs, however, is debatable.
I was watching the BBC’s local news at lunchtime, when it was announced that, of the eight Conservative MPs in Wales, seven would be voting to support Mrs May. The significant fact was this: The one who would not vote for her was a former Brexit minister.
Clearly, as someone who has firsthand experience of Mrs May’s leadership, that person wants nothing more to do with it.
But it seems the others are denying the implications of that choice.
Conservatives across the UK should hope the ignorance of these Welsh Tories is a minority view.
Otherwise they’ll be stuck with a lemon leading their party into a general election they will be sure to lose – badly.
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