The Conservative Party’s week has lurched from one crisis to another. And the somewhat shambolic seven days it’s just had ended rather appropriately. With a resounding “don’t know” answer to a very important question.
The latest opinion polling of Conservative Party members has been released. And it focused on who people want as the next leader. It found that 71% of 1,002 members surveyed want Theresa May to stay on as leader, with 22% thinking she should go. But, if there was a leadership contest, Tory members were clear on their opinion. Because:
- 26% said they didn’t know who they’d want as leader.
- David Davis – 21%.
- Boris Johnson – 17%.
- Jacob Rees-Mogg – 6%.
- Philip Hammond – 5%.
- Amber Rudd – 4%.
- Ruth Davidson – 3%.
- Michael Gove – 3%.
- Andrea Leadsom – <1%.
- Liam Fox – <1%.
Yeah, but… No, but…
A quarter of grassroots Tories don’t know who they want yet and around a third picked someone who – unless something incredibly dramatic happens – probably has no chance. So, for both Johnson and Davis, and just possibly for a very dark horse, too, there really is all to play for.
But while a potential new leader may have “all to play for”, they would be inheriting a party in chaos. And the past week has been more chaotic than most; especially for May.
Monday saw the truth about the government’s 30 hours free childcare policy come out. A trial of the scheme found that 55% of parents ended up having to pay additional costs for childcare, and the majority of the uptake for the scheme was among the better off. Also, only 1% of mothers actually started work after using the ‘free’ childcare.
On Tuesday, May received a warning from the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) – the body that sets the salaries for NHS managers, military officers and top civil servants. It said that the 1% public sector pay cap was causing staff to become “frustrated and demotivated”.
Wednesday saw protests by disabled people in the heart of parliament. They were highlighting what the UN has called “grave” and “systematic” violations of their basic human rights. And meanwhile, May thought it appropriate to ‘lie’ at Prime Minister’s Questions about Labour’s stance on student debt.
No rest for the wicked?
On Thursday, the Conservative’s claim of being the party of “law and order” was left in tatters. The latest crime statistics showed that recorded crime has increased by the largest amount since 2007; up 10%. And at the same time, more protests took place; this time, over the government’s management of our railways, and the lack of accessibility for disabled people.
And just to add insult to injury, on Friday the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed the latest government borrowing figures. It showed that:
- Public sector borrowing is £1.9bn higher than last year.
- National debt is now £1.75tn; 87.4% of GDP and a 3.6% rise year-on-year.
- The deficit is expected to rise from £46bn last year to £58bn. It also widened in the first three months of the year by 8.9%.
- Public spending on debt interest jumped an annual 33% in June to £4.9bn, the highest since 2011.
- Corporation tax revenues fell by 3.2% to £4.8bn.
May: safe, for now
You can listen to The Canary’s Editor-in-Chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza discussing May’s omnishambles with writer Steve Topple and UK Editor John Ranson on the latest CanaryPod.
It would seem that after these catastrophes have hit May’s government, Conservative Party members are still happy. Or that they can see another general election or leadership contest would damage the party even more. So, for the time being, May looks safe.
But, with a summer filled with Brexit negotiations ahead, the members may ‘put up and shut up’, but can the same be said for May’s MPs? And with Labour on the offensive, the Conservative Party would do well to keep looking over it’s shoulder. As it’s position in government is looking weaker and wobblier by the hour.
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