|AIWA! NO!|December 11th is when the government will present the Brexit deal that they have been negotiating for the last eighteen months to parliament.
The EU has said that it’s this deal or no deal. The boasting of Tory ministers on TV programmes about six months ago that a no deal would be better than a bad deal may be a reality, and most sane politicians are more than worried regarding this outcome. If the deal is rejected on 11th December, there is no time to renegotiate another deal. There is effectively now no time to have a referendum, before we leave on March 29th, as a minimum of 10 weeks is required for any referendum and that’s after getting the legislation through parliament.
If Theresa May does not get the Brexit deal through parliament, there is no time to ask the EU for an extension as that agreement needs to be accepted by the other 27 nations. To even have a general election if there is a vote of no confidence, parliament will have to alter the Fixed Term parliament act and the general election will not be before we have to leave the EU. The position we find ourselves in is perilous and the chance of automatically leaving the EU on 29th March 2019 (cliff edge Brexit) is becoming a dangerous possibility.
I can’t see how May is going to square the circle under these circumstances. It is more than likely that May will fail on 11th December to get her deal accepted by parliament. It’s then very possible that Graham Brady (Chair of the 1922 committee) will get the 48 letters from MP’s to trigger a leadership election. Alternatively, May could face a vote of no confidence. Even if she wins that but it’s close, she may well feel obliged to step down.
So, who would succeed Theresa May?
The prime Tory contender is Boris. Although he has not said, recently, he wants to be the Tory leader it would be quite incredulous to assume anything else. He is popular with MP’s and party members as he is seen as a true leaver and 70% of his party are leavers. However, Boris is not popular with the electorate.
In a YouGov poll, Sajid Javid came second as the most popular Tory. He is quite a favourite with the party and MP’s and seen as a good Home Secretary. Ruth Davidson also has a favourable rating but at the moment rules herself out.
Gove, Liam Fox and Jeremy Hunt are very unpopular with the public and are seen as very risky to lead the party into a general election. Amber Rudd and the Chancellor are not popular with the party as they are remainers. Chris Grayling has proved to be a poor Transport Secretary and is not likely to stand.
David Davies has been put forward as a caretaker PM who would step down after he delivers Brexit (not sure he would want to). Again, he is not popular with the public.
Jacob Ree-Mogg is popular with his party but not with the public. He has said he would not stand and would likely support Boris.
Dominic Raab could be the man. He is a leaver and well-liked by the party and MP’s. The public at the moment doesn’t have a negative impression of him. The other person who may have a chance is Penny Mordaunt. She is a leaver and has a favourable impression with the electorate.
There are a number of other cabinet ministers from Alun Cairns to Greg Clark whom the public doesn’t know and that rules them out of leading their party in a general election.
There are no good candidates available to take over from May. The real question is who would want to take on this Brexit poison chalice that the Tories have got us into. A weak leader or an over-ambitious politician with an inflated ego as PM will damage this country for years to come. The kind of damage that will be hard to come back from. However, as May is determined to take a cul de sac approach with her Brexit deal, the outcomes don’t look good for her, her party or the country.
* Tahir Maher is the Wednesday editor and a member of the LDV editorial team