Brexit: Theresa May sets her departure date
24 May 2019
Theresa May has today announced that she will offer her resignation as Prime Minister to the Queen on 7 June.
While the official date of changeover will come later, today’s date is the one that will become a chapter header in the A-Level history textbooks.
That is because it is the day Theresa May has finally admitted defeat. After trying again and again to deliver her vision of Brexit, she has, in her words, ‘failed’.
Some saw her as committed; others admirably dutiful; some annoyingly tenacious. Perhaps, ultimately, it is the case that she was just completely separated from political reality.
Her vision of Brexit pleased no-one. And while delivering the most significant constitutional change in the modern history of the United Kingdom might cause the downfall of any leader, it is certainly the cause of hers.
So what now? Well, that depends who takes up the mantle of leader of the Conservative party and the role of Prime Minister.
The field of challengers is one of the largest to ever contest a leadership ballot. Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Jeremy Hunt, Matt Hancock, Amber Rudd, Esther Mcvey, Justine Greening, David Davis, Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt, James Cleverly, Rory Stewart and Gavin Williamson could all throw their hats in the ring of what would be a fierce battle to become the knight in shining armour who would rescue the Conservative party from the folly of Brexit.
Boris Johnson is the most popular among the public. However, the system to select the final candidates is, in its current form, likely to eliminate Boris Johnson from the process. While Johnson remains a popular figure among the public and wider Conservative party, he remains unpopular within the Parliamentary Conservative Party. As it is the PCP who select the two candidates for election by the wider party, he is unlikely surpass this part of the process. Nonetheless, perhaps this could change - if he manages to turn his favourability round (promising cabinet jobs is always a good way of doing that) or they agree to widen the pool of candidates to go to the membership for the final vote, he could have a very good chance of being the next Prime Minister.
In saying this, it’s a dangerous game being the one in front from the off. Being up top means you have furthest to fall and Johnson is not one immune to slip ups or the tide of public opinion turning.
Other key contenders like Gove, Hunt, Raab and Javid could quite easily usurp Johnson as front runner by capturing the anti-Johnson caucus. Gove, Hunt, Javid and Leadsom’s downfall could be that they have been part of Theresa May’s government and have been, at least tacitly, to blame for Theresa May’s government’s failure to deliver Brexit.
Raab’s could be that he is too hardline (he wold opt for a WTO Brexit) and inexperienced. Nonetheless, with the right PR-savvy a staff running the campaigns, outsiders can do well, which opens the door to Raab and the less senior Tories.
It’s difficult to see a new conservative leader contemplating a second referendum, but quite easy to believe they might bite the bullet and opt for no-deal. Then again, a new leader could have another bash at Theresa May’s strategy of charting a middle course and trying to bring a ‘sensible’ Brexit strategy to unite the country. Because that went so well this time.
It all depends on whether sensationalism or sensibility wins the day.
As ever, the DMA will be updating you on all the relevant developments and have prepared a Brexit toolkit with information about what to do in the various potential Brexit outcomes. Check in to the Public Affairs section of the Website to get the latest.