Theresa May won’t run in the next election, despite her statements.

Theresa May won't run in the next election, despite her statements.

The Future of Theresa May and the Conservative Party: A Delicate Dance of Power

Theresa May

Introduction: An Unexpected Declaration

In a recent interview in Japan, British Prime Minister Theresa May shocked many by proclaiming her intention to lead the Conservative Party into the next election, which is scheduled for 2022. The reaction to her statement was a mix of despair among Conservatives, joy among Labour supporters, and amazement from political commentators. However, behind this seemingly bold claim lies a more nuanced reality.

Unrealistic Claims and the Politics of Succession

May’s proclamation might have been a matter of convenience rather than a genuine belief in her suitability for leading the party in the next election. Previous Prime Minister Tony Blair set a precedence of naming his departure date, which created challenges for his successors. May may have preferred to make an unrealistic claim, akin to Margaret Thatcher’s famous remark of hoping to “go on and on,” rather than setting a definite sell-by date and providing her rivals with an opportunity to maneuver for the succession.

Moreover, May’s own party, and especially the influential 1922 Committee, holds the ultimate decision-making power in choosing the party leader for the next election. Given her track record, which includes calling an unnecessary election resulting in a loss of the majority, squandering a significant lead in the opinion polls, and struggling to articulate her message effectively, May’s chances of leading the Tories into the next election are as unlikely as other ambitious figures, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The Power Play: May’s Bid for Reassertion

Rather than a long-term commitment to lead the party into the next election, May’s declaration signifies her determination to consolidate her power as interim prime minister. The Conservative Party has been consumed by internal leadership struggles, characterized by constant briefings, rhetorical attacks, and infighting. Governing effectively has often taken a backseat amidst the chaos.

Despite her weaknesses, May retains a chance of restoring some semblance of order to her party. The Tories are realizing that their internal conflicts are causing significant damage, as the British electorate does not favor divided parties. Another reason for their reconsideration is the fact that May, despite her flaws, has positioned herself as a unifying figure within the party. With a firm stance on crime and relatively liberal views on social values, May bridges the gap that divides the Tories on the issue of Brexit. While she may not be popular among her colleagues, she has relatively few enemies.

Currently, the party’s energy is primarily directed towards undermining potential rivals to May’s leadership. Boris Johnson, a grassroots favorite, has faced intense criticism, ranging from portraying him as an exploded volcano to a fatuous fool. These attacks, while providing journalists with juicy material, are detrimental to the future of the Conservative Party.

Out with the Old, In with the New

May’s survival chances also stem from the party’s realization that they need to skip a generation when selecting their next leader. Many of the current figures are deemed inadequate for various reasons. However, the middle ranks of the party boast a talented pool of individuals from diverse social and ethnic backgrounds. Figures like Rishi Sunak, a successful entrepreneur married to the daughter of one of India’s wealthiest men; Kwasi Kwarteng, a historian with immense potential; Rory Stewart, who already has successful careers in the military, intelligence services, and academia under his belt; and Ruth Davidson, the head of the Scottish Tory party, are all promising prospects.

One indication of this generational shift is the recent victory of Tom Tugendhat, a relatively new MP, over the incumbent Crispin Blunt for the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. The party finds itself in an intriguing position, with a caretaker prime minister and caretaker cabinet members like Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and Liam Fox, who hold their positions primarily due to factional rivalries. Concurrently, a cohort of talented younger politicians is knocking on the door of power, eager to contribute.

The Perils of Stasis

The greatest danger for May lies in maintaining her cabinet of caretakers without giving the younger talent its due recognition. Replacing figures like Johnson with younger, more capable individuals could strengthen Britain’s foreign policy, but it could also disrupt the power balance within the cabinet and grant Johnson an opportunity to make mischief or even destabilize the government.

Aside from depriving the government of fresh perspectives and talents, keeping the current caretaker cabinet members in place fuels the already heated pressure-cooker environment within the party. In the long term, this may discourage capable younger Tories from accepting their subordinate position within an older generation that has, for the most part, failed to prove its worthiness for office and indispensability for Britain’s future.

Conclusion: Balancing Power and Preparation

May faces two critical tests. In the short term, she must assert her power in order to prevent her party from tearing itself apart. Meanwhile, in the long term, she must lay the foundation for the next generation of leaders by bringing fresh talent into upper echelons of government and facilitating the selection of a credible figure capable of leading the party into the upcoming election.

Only time will tell if May can navigate this delicate dance of power while balancing the demands of the present and the aspirations of the future for the Conservative Party.