The government is in shambles. Ever since her disastrous election campaign, and the subsequent result that left the Conservative Party without a parliamentary majority, Theresa May has, in the words of George Osborne, been a “dead woman walking”.
However, in the absence of a credible alternative Tory candidate to replace her, Mrs May has stumbled on for the past few months; and her government has stumbled along with her.
I don’t care if you are the most anti EU advocate in the country, you cannot be anything other than alarmed at the lack of clarity and progress that has been made in respect of the Brexit negotiations. David Davis, Liam Fox, Boris Johnson, and the Prime Minister herself have all made ‘keynote’ speeches on what Britain’s stance on Brexit is in recent months. Not only have those speeches failed to offer an understandable exit route and a set of objectives that we are seeking to achieve through Brexit; but each speech exposes the inconsistencies and differences that exist within the cabinet, and the wider Conservative Party over what a post-EU UK should look like.
Last week, allegations of inappropriate behaviour, and sexual harassment hogged the media headlines. Though embarrassing for the government, it at least had the comfort of opposition MPs facing similar accusations. It also deflected attention away from the administration taking a pasting in three areas of policy.
Universal Credit, votes for sixteen -year olds, and the publication of Brexit impact papers that the government wanted to remain confidential, have all caused difficulties for the government.
‘Knee-gate’ has caused the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon to resign; others, including the de facto Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green, are under investigation. The foreign Secretary has made such an error of judgement this week that a British citizen is facing the very real prospect of spending an extended period of time in an Iranian prison. At any other time, in any other government, Johnson would have been sacked. A man of integrity, I would suggest, would have resigned anyway.
The economic news hasn’t been the brightest either, with interest rates rising for the first time in a decade on the back of a worrying increase in inflation.
Not since John Major and his ‘bastards’ period has a prime Minister and a government been as weak.
The plan, it seems, was for Mrs May to stay in Number 10 until a Brexit deal was done, and then an orderly change at the top sorted. I can’t see the PM surviving through 2018; and if the Tories were struggling to identify a suitable replacement in the Summer, they are in a worse place now.
It is beyond damaging to be led by a government that is so clearly torn between doing what is best for the country, and doing what will placate its party.
Ordinarily, you would be expecting a General Election to be called any time now. But, if it is difficult for the Tories to spot Mrs May’s successor, it is equally difficult for many of the electorate to imagine Jeremy Corbyn as the PM.
Another poll would most likely throw up a very similar result to the last one – and that takes us nowhere.
Politically, I cannot remember a time that has been so depressing. We can’t go on like this. But, it looks like we will.