by David Ward
It’s fair to say May hasn’t been tested so far.
With Labour trapped in a spiral of decline part demographic, part self inflicted, her real threat comes from her own benches.
She has an unenviable in-tray. Brexit, a large deficit with an economy stuck in first gear, growing unease with establishment parties, and growing pressure to make a real difference on housebuilding.
Readers of Uncut may well feel some of these are of the Conservative party’s own making. Nevertheless, her challenge is to deal with them while keeping a wafer thin majority intact.
Of course, as Echo and the Bunnymen advised us, nothing ever lasts forever. And you can usually tell what will bring a Prime Minister down before it happens. From David Cameron’s fondness for a gamble to Thatcher’s unshakeable belief in her own ideas.
Cameron’s resignation yesterday is a neat example of one of May’s looming problems. Her hasty clearout of the Cameroons and their ideas. Having made enemies amongst the left of her party, May must curry favour with the right, whose darlings include Liam Fox and David Davis.
Yet this only opens up arguments with former ‘modernisers’.
While Cameron insists the timing of his exit is “entirely coincidental”, the Times reports May’s U –turn on grammar schools prompted his decision.
He intends to focus his time on schools and international aid. Two areas in which the new government is signalling a desire to change course. His memoirs will be published next year.
Yet he is perhaps the least of her problems. While Cameron can dust off his writing pad, and Gove can ensure his Times columns are as supportive as possible, others will not. Nicky Morgan and Stephen Crabb are still young, while Osborne wanted to remain in the cabinet.
Small wonder on the weekend before the grammar schools announcement it was Morgan who briefed newspapers Mays plans were “weird”.
The PM’s second major problem is her policy agenda is riven with contradictions.
Her grammar schools plans conflict with her aims for a “One nation” government focussed on the many rather than ‘a privileged few’.
She will struggle to build the number of houses she wants while continuing to adopt Osborne’s fiscal framework.
And her claims to deliver a Brexit that “works for everyone” are a hostage to fortune in a situation which basically amounts to picking losers.
It is because of this that we see stories beginning to emerge of Downing Street attempting to micro manage all government actions and announcements.
Much like Gordon Brown, at the beginning this was interpreted as strength from the centre. But before long it will be seen as weakness.
The small team at Downing Street cannot feasibly keep a grip on everything without creating long delays in the work departments are doing. Things will start to drift.
Once difficult policy decisions begin to bite, backbench rebellions begin, or press coverage begins to become negative, the temptation will be to develop a bunker mentality.
Those not fully trusted become frozen out. Ministers prevented from making what they see as routine announcements. Strength quickly becomes paranoia.
And all the while a group of young, talented, former cabinet ministers sits waiting on the backbenches for their moment.
David Ward is a Labour campaigner in south London