Theresa May, Britain’s Prime Minister, was today desperately clinging to power following a tense 24 hours on 22 May, which concluded with the resignation of a senior member of her cabinet in Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House.
The day started with May outlining her Withdrawal Agreement Bill to the House of Commons, but senior Tories, including Leadsom, were not in the house at the time. In fact, Leadsom was at a meeting of the so-called Pizza Club of hard Brexiteers.
The Pizza Club first met in the Autumn 2018 as some Cabinet ministers feared that May would bow to pressure to deliver a soft Brexit. Leadsom, a leadership candidate in 2016 when May was elected, said, “I could not stand up in the [House of} Commons at Business questions and announce a bill that has elements that I cannot support.”
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of the Withdrawal Bill it became clear that many Cabinet and party members were unhappy at two major elements of the bill, the temporary customs union, offered as a sop to Labour MPs in an attempt to win their support, and the offer of a vote in Parliament to see if MPs would support a confirmatory referendum.
As a result of the growing discontent within the Tory Party, members of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers held a secret ballot on 22 May voting on whether to change party rules, that would allow the party to hold a vote of confidence immediately, rather than wait until December this year. Current Party rules allow for one challenge every 12 months and May survived a vote of confidence in December 2018.
The results of the ballot are in sealed envelopes and will remain unopened until the 10 June 2019, at this point the party will move to oust May from office if she has not already left voluntarily.
May, however, appears determined to plough on undeterred and has announced that she will present her bill to Parliament on 24 May. Though she did concede that she was, “Sorry to lose someone of [Mrs Leadsom’s] passion, drive and sincerity”.
It is now expected that the European Parliamentary elections that will run from 23-26 May will apply the coup de grâce to May’s zombie government. As voters cast their votes the Conservative Party lags some way behind the Brexit Party in the lead, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, on just 9 percent.
Should these polls be reflected in the vote and the estimates of one third of May’s cabinet being in revolt, May’s position would be untenable, and a leadership contest would be expected to be triggered by her resignation. That would be under normal circumstances, but these are not normal times.