Prime Minister Theresa May coughing as she struggles through her speech. Source: Sky News
In the wake of what was arguably her worst week as Prime Minister, Theresa May is struggling to withstand the aftershocks. For such a short term, her time in office has felt like an eternity with a string of losing battles behind her, from the loss of her parliamentary majority in an ill-advised call for a general election, to the current fight in Brexit negotiation strategies both in and out of her own party.
With all this behind her, she was depending upon a rousing speech at the Conservative Party’s Annual Conference to “rally the troops”. The conference presented her with a perfect opportunity to address many of the qualms articulated by her own Conservative MPs, reestablish their faith in her as a strong leader moving forward, and unify their approach to negotiations.
Unfortunately, none of those goals were achieved, kicking off her terrible week that collapsed the very walls surrounding her. The MPs in attendance were subject to bouts of coughing that made portions of the speech unintelligible, and a raspy voice that was difficult in itself to hear. But the lack of strength in its delivery wasn’t the only thing that undermined the message of her speech; part of the way through, a performance artist was dragged from the stage after handing her a P45, the British equivalent of a pink slip, claiming it was “From Boris.”
While only speculative, for many this prank cemented a long running assumption that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is vying for May’s position or at least her removal as PM. It wasn’t until later in her nightmarish week that May’s seat was truly shaken, when an unlikely adversary came out of the shadows. Grant Shapps, who had previously only come into the public eye for a bullying scandal in 2015, again reared his head in a failed attempt to unify MPs against May’s leadership by publicly claiming that at least 30 MPs agreed she should resign.
This figure proved to be vastly idealized, and she remains in her position, but Shapps did succeed in reducing her sense of security. Her perceived weakness will not go unnoticed by other stronger and more viable candidates that could be more persuasive in the coming weeks, but the continued pursuit of May’s overthrowal is simply a distraction from the real problem at hand: Brexit.
A lack of homogeneity within parties is inhibiting the development of strong negotiation strategies that are vital for progress with the EU. With the harsh consequences of a no-deal Brexit looming over the British economy and the threat of a second independence referendum in Scotland, it is best for Parliament to focus their efforts toward the minutiae of a soft-Brexit rather than wasting precious time bringing down Prime Minister May. So, while she may be calling for stability in an earthquake, that doesn’t mean her own MPs should contribute to the shakiness of her foundation.