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Theresa May: safe in the party, not in Parliament

Nigel Morris-Co...

This week, some Conservative Party MPs delivered, in sufficient number, a letter to the party's managing committee, the 1922 Committee. It expressed that they had no confidence in the Prime Minister and that the party should replace her. The timing, many have said, was a mistake, that those seeking her removal, should have waited until after the Brexit vote and attack her then, if she lost. That, it is here opined, would have defeated the purpose of this week's supposed rebellion.

The challenge to May this week was not a failure. The majority of Conservative MPs voted to keep her in the job but that job is leader of the Party, not the job of Prime Minister. It is open to Parliament to call for a vote of no confidence in either her or the government. That may well happen and that is a vote she might well lose. May's last big mistake was calling an election having entirely misread the mood of the country and failing to realise how unpopular, she, personally, is. The government's parliamentary majority, since, depends on the support of a small party from Northern Ireland, the D.U.P. and they are mightily upset at the border issue. Politically, they are part of Britain, loyal to the Crown and, formally, a protestant country. Ireland is a Republic and, formally, a Catholic country. But there, the differences, largely, end. Economically, the border is more or less transparent, socially it has disappeared entirely. Because both the RoI and the UK are outside the Schengen area, they have maintained, in effect, a common border that includes all the British Isles (a geographical not political term). Because of the principles of free movement of goods and people, there has been no need for what has been called a "hard border" across the island and none of those in the island want to see one built. But, a border there must be if the UK and the RoI are on different sides of the EU, one inside and one outside.

The D.U.P. have said, plainly, they will vote down the exit plan if such a border is imposed. Across Parliament many of all parties agree with them. The so-called "plan B" touted by May upsets those who want as close to a clean break as possible, saying that it leaves the UK tied into EU affairs for a period that might turn out to be for ever. That, they say is not the withdrawal the people voted for.

The party challenge was not about throwing May out this week. It was a demonstration that it's not only the D.U.P. which does not support the deal, insofar as they know what it is, that May has accepted, subject to Parliamentary approval. It is clear that about a third of her own party in Parliament, who physically stand behind her, are not behind what they see as a dismal deal. They have also demonstrated that, if she does not come up with something better, they will not support her in a vote of no confidence in her (as distinct from the government as a whole) in the House.

So, the timing was not a mistake. Parliament had already forced May to back down and postpone the vote on the Withdrawal terms, the party vote was a way of adding more pressure.

Please Be Informed has launched a new section, "Understanding the UK's withdrawal from the EU". It delivers apolitical explanation and analysis.

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