Theresa May is a political paradox

"Strong and stable" was ...

Posted: Oct 7, 2018 11:13 AM
Updated: Oct 7, 2018 11:13 AM

"Strong and stable" was British Prime Minister Theresa May's mantra in the run up to the 2017 general election.

But then, everything came tumbling down: her authority and government were severely weakened as she lost her Parliamentary majority.

Boris Johnson

Brexit

Continents and regions

Elections and campaigns

Europe

European Union

Government and public administration

Government organizations - Intl

Northern Europe

Political Figures - Intl

Politics

Theresa May

United Kingdom

Now, the British media's adjectives of choice for May are "beleaguered," "weak," "isolated."

And yet, in a party not short of ambitious members, she remains Prime Minister. The fragility of her leadership and her government seems to be suspending everything delicately in place.

Given her weakness then, you'd think Theresa May would be an easy target for MPs to fire political ammo at her without fear of retribution.

Not so.

Exhibit A: Boris Johnson. The star of the former Foreign Secretary's has waned as some MPs have been turned off by his public criticism of the Prime Minister in lengthy pieces in British press, his outspoken condemnation of the Prime Minister's Brexit policy -- not to mention his regular appearances in reports of leadership plots.

This time last year a former co-Party Chairman, Grant Schapps, led a failed coup to topple the Prime Minister, which was exposed by 10 Downing Street.

The backlash was strong and swift. Schapps said: "The level of abuse and bile which has rained down since is simply unprecedented in my own experience of politics, and I've been a party chairman at election time, so that's saying something!"

For a Prime Minister that had cut the party's majority a few months earlier and was the target of widespread anger as a result, the knee-jerk counterattack against the plotters was surprising.

Most recently, Conservative MP James Duddrige announced that he had submitted a letter of no confidence (48 are needed before a no-confidence vote is called) in May shortly before her keynote conference speech.

Duddrige claimed he hadn't met one MP who thought May would lead the party into the next election. An ally of Johnson, he said, "Boris is a rock star. He is a vote-winner, he is a leader -- and she is neither of these."

May's unexpectedly disarming conference speech followed, exhorting the party to come together, or Brexit is at risk. Duddrige's move fell flat and had no real impact whatsoever.

Members murmur about when to depose May and whom to replace her with, but anyone who crosses the line to coup ends up far worse off.

Since Michael Gove famously turned on his one-time pick for PM, Boris Johnson, in the 2016 leadership contest, backstabbing has gone out of fashion. Besides, he who wields the knife will never wear the crown.

At the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham this week, it was clear that Johnson's teasing of May (he appeared on the front pages of many newspapers on Tuesday morning running through a field, a mocking reference to the time the PM said that it was the naughtiest thing she had ever done) and the response of European leaders to her at the informal summit in Salzburg has encouraged some Cabinet members and activists to rally around her.

Maybe May gives human form to Brexiteers' angst at how they believe the European Union has treated the UK. Maybe her public and constant knocks are relatable. Either way, she has engendered a begrudging respect and sympathy. But don't mistake this for popularity.

Since the bungled snap election of 2017, May does not enjoy great support within her party and her authority is indiscernible (cautious and infrequent reshuffles are one symptom of this).

There is a leadership vacuum. So much so it seems like the post of prime minister has never been so up for grabs. But instead of the available support coalescing around a candidate, the party is splintered: on Brexit, on the domestic agenda and what they want the personality of their future leader to be.

There are too many ill-defined and rival visions for the future as to render her opposition formless. Nevertheless, factional agitating in the Conservative Party continues, depleting May's opponents of political energy and capital.

Not to mention the difficulty May is having selling her Brexit plan and the thorny negotiation process of dealing with the EU. The issue is so divisive that it is hard to see an outcome of which Parliament or the public would approve. Brexit is a political poisoned chalice which even politicians aspiring to be prime minister may hesitate to drink from.

Testament to May's perceived weakness as a leader is the notion that the Conservative Party could not be sure of an election victory if one was called tomorrow.

Polling supports this. She polls closely, if slightly above the unreservedly socialist leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn.

It's exactly this weakness that gives May an incongruous strength. For many hard Brexiteers, who predominantly populate the right wing of the Conservative Party, there might be one fear greater than no Brexit at all: Jeremy Corbyn inside Downing Street.

The fear of triggering an election -- one that the Conservative Party could easily lose -- is keeping some of the voices in the party in check. For now, at least.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 592709

Reported Deaths: 9340
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion818931301
Lake44495668
Allen32035543
Hamilton28533305
St. Joseph26847372
Elkhart24132341
Vanderburgh18759213
Tippecanoe17482122
Johnson14583285
Porter14464160
Hendricks13931242
Madison10600213
Vigo10513174
Clark10300132
Monroe9109108
Delaware8861133
LaPorte8825155
Howard7916138
Kosciusko788877
Warrick648290
Hancock642597
Bartholomew629294
Floyd6184105
Wayne5956157
Grant5848110
Dubois546172
Boone536367
Morgan519491
Henry496164
Marshall494984
Cass473160
Noble462157
Dearborn461344
Jackson416145
Shelby404279
Lawrence382075
Clinton366340
Gibson357856
DeKalb338563
Montgomery336651
Harrison332642
Knox328239
Miami311243
Steuben308742
Adams296535
Whitley295525
Wabash293945
Ripley293745
Putnam286847
Huntington285058
Jasper284434
White268438
Daviess262172
Jefferson253138
Decatur242882
Fayette242448
Greene235660
Posey232826
Wells230147
LaGrange224761
Clay218732
Scott217337
Randolph209041
Jennings193235
Sullivan189331
Spencer182717
Fountain180425
Washington178218
Starke172041
Jay163122
Fulton160230
Owen160137
Carroll153015
Orange152133
Rush150818
Perry148727
Vermillion145533
Franklin143833
Parke12908
Tipton128432
Pike114125
Blackford108022
Pulaski95137
Newton89721
Brown85730
Benton84510
Crawford7669
Martin70413
Warren6607
Switzerland6235
Union6145
Ohio4707
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 831066

Reported Deaths: 10281
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin97996705
Cuyahoga826131062
Hamilton61629439
Montgomery41873399
Summit33603729
Lucas30316597
Butler29859228
Stark24951413
Warren18974139
Lorain18217212
Mahoning16815336
Lake15491135
Clermont15235104
Delaware1392977
Licking12765132
Trumbull12445306
Fairfield1226080
Greene11682133
Medina11191165
Clark10648264
Wood10000154
Allen9579126
Portage8923106
Miami890573
Richland8848116
Marion7341113
Tuscarawas7162174
Columbiana7117124
Pickaway705750
Wayne6815165
Muskingum676342
Erie5943118
Hancock540490
Ross532787
Scioto523663
Geauga487755
Darke458589
Ashtabula440572
Lawrence436652
Union432828
Mercer425887
Sandusky424462
Auglaize415159
Seneca415155
Huron413638
Shelby411021
Jefferson404566
Belmont397840
Washington373140
Athens36549
Putnam365372
Madison341429
Knox337722
Ashland333838
Fulton327143
Defiance320178
Crawford315169
Preble312434
Brown298219
Logan293229
Ottawa283034
Clinton279643
Williams271166
Highland263618
Jackson258343
Guernsey244025
Champaign242827
Fayette228029
Morrow22404
Perry222618
Holmes219462
Henry211947
Hardin205033
Coshocton198920
Van Wert198044
Gallia191626
Wyandot191449
Adams165815
Pike165217
Hocking164423
Carroll150116
Paulding139921
Noble118340
Meigs103521
Monroe96129
Harrison8598
Morgan79628
Vinton67213
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 13°
Angola
Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 15°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
24° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 16°
Fort Wayne
Clear
23° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 13°
Lima
Partly Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 13°
Evening Light Snow Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events