One of the most often-asked questions by Americans watching the ferocious Brexit debate in the British House of Commons is why — after a string of stinging rejects by lawmakers — Theresa May remains prime minister.
The answer is having nearly lost power in their last trip to the polls in 2017, the ruling Conservative Party fears facing the voters in another election that the replacement of the prime minister is likely to generate.
A defeat for the Conservatives would result in their worst nightmare: Jeremy Corbyn – Labour leader, who once described Karl Marx as a "great economist" and favors "an end to NATO" (although he now simply said he would push for NATO to "restrict its role) – as prime minister.
Two just-completed polls show the Conservatives declining in support among the voters. According to a Survation Poll conducted for the U.K.'s Daily Mail, the opposition Labour Party leads the Conservatives in a parliamentary election by 39 percent to 35 percent, with the smaller Liberal Democrats at 10 percent and other parties in single digits.
The previous Survation poll in February showed the Conservatives leading Labour by 40-36 percent.
The YouGov poll, conducted for the Times of London, showed Conservatives edging Labour by 35 percent to 31 percent, with the Liberal Democrats at 12 percent and all other parties in single digits.
Last month, YouGov had the Conservatives leading Labour by a stronger 40 percent to 31 percent.
Should May resign her positions as prime minister and Conservative Party leader, the 314 Conservative Members of the 650-seat House would begin the process by voting for a new leader. With the candidate in last place removed on each ballot, the voting would continue until two candidates were left. At that point, the two would go to a primary among members of the parties. The last time card-carrying members of the party got to vote for leader was 14 years ago.
"The grassroots of the party will demand a primary and a voice in selecting a leader," Ben Harris-Quinney, head of the Bow Group conservative organization, told Newsmax. "May became leader and prime minister after her last opponent dropped out of the race [in 2016]. It's been too long since the party's rank-and-file got to vote for a leader."
In December, May survived a vote of no confidence among fellow Conservative Members of Parliament by 200-117. Under party rules, there can be no challenges to her for the rest of the year.
A month later, the prime minister narrowly (325-306) dodged a vote of no confidence by the full House of Commons. Had the vote been successful, it almost certainly would have led to May's exodus from 10 Downing Street and most likely a new general election.
At this point, May could exit by:
- Another vote of no confidence by the full House.
- A vote for a new election by the House.
- Her own resignation.
Already Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt — a May ally and “remainer” (against Brexit) — has hosted a private dinner party to determine his chances of becoming prime minister. Dominic Raab, former Secretary for Exiting Europe, is also considered a strong contender.
Two more durable figures are also expected to enter the race if May departs: former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who chaired the "Leave" campaign for Brexit, and David Davis, former Brexit negotiator who in 2005 lost the last primary for Conservative leader (to Prime Minister-to-be David Cameron).
Few, if any, are taking bets on who May's likely successor will be — or, in fact, when and if May will be out.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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