Who will Succeed Theresa May?

December 11th is when the government will present the Brexit deal that they have been negotiating for the last eighteen months to parliament. The EU has said that it’s this deal or no deal. The boasting of Tory ministers on TV programmes about six months ago that a no deal would be better than a bad deal may be a reality, and most sane politicians are more than worried regarding this outcome. If the deal is rejected on 11th December, there is no time to renegotiate another deal. There is effectively now no time to have a referendum, before we leave on March 29th, as a minimum of 10 weeks is required for any referendum and that’s after getting the legislation through parliament. If Theresa May does not get the Brexit deal through parliament, there is no time to ask the EU for an extension as that agreement needs to be accepted by the other 27 nations. To even have a general election if there is a vote of no confidence, parliament will have to alter the Fixed Term parliament act and the general election will not be before we have to leave the EU. The position we find ourselves in is perilous and the chance of automatically leaving the EU on 29th March 2019 (cliff edge Brexit) is becoming a dangerous possibility.

I can’t see how May is going to square the circle under these circumstances. It is more than likely that May will fail on 11th December to get her deal accepted by parliament. It’s then very possible that Graham Brady (Chair of the 1922 committee) will get the 48 letters from MP’s to trigger a leadership election. Alternatively, May could face a vote of no confidence. Even if she wins that but it’s close, she may well feel obliged to step down.

So, who would succeed Theresa May?

The prime Tory contender is Boris. Although he has not said, recently, he wants to be the Tory leader it would be quite incredulous to assume anything else. He is popular with MP’s and party members as he is seen as a true leaver and 70% of his party are leavers. However, Boris is not popular with the electorate.

In a YouGov poll, Sajid Javid came second as the most popular Tory. He is quite a favourite with the party and MP’s and seen as a good Home Secretary. Ruth Davidson also has a favourable rating but at the moment rules herself out.

Gove, Liam Fox and Jeremy Hunt are very unpopular with the public and are seen as very risky to lead the party into a general election. Amber Rudd and the Chancellor are not popular with the party as they are remainers. Chris Grayling has proved to be a poor Transport Secretary and is not likely to stand.

David Davies has been put forward as a caretaker PM who would step down after he delivers Brexit (not sure he would want to). Again, he is not popular with the public.

Jacob Ree-Mogg is popular with his party but not with the public. He has said he would not stand and would likely support Boris.

Dominic Raab could be the man. He is a leaver and well-liked by the party and MP’s. The public at the moment doesn’t have a negative impression of him. The other person who may have a chance is Penny Mordaunt. She is a leaver and has a favourable impression with the electorate.

There are a number of other cabinet ministers from Alun Cairns to Greg Clark whom the public doesn’t know and that rules them out of leading their party in a general election.

There are no good candidates available to take over from May. The real question is who would want to take on this Brexit poison chalice that the Tories have got us into. A weak leader or an over-ambitious politician with an inflated ego as PM will damage this country for years to come. The kind of damage that will be hard to come back from. However, as May is determined to take a cul de sac approach with her Brexit deal, the outcomes don’t look good for her, her party or the country.



* Cllr. Tahir Maher is a member of the LDV editorial team

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  • Richard Church 5th Dec '18 - 7:54am

    There is no need to amend the fixed term parliament act to get a general election. If the government loses a vote of confidence and no alternative prime minister is able to win a vote of confidence within 21 days then a general election happens automatically. It’s unlikely the government will lose a vote of confidence though.

  • Tahir Maher Tahir Maher 5th Dec '18 - 8:03am

    Just a question Richard – are you sure. As the law is the law and therefore altering it requires a parliamentary change (unless there is a provision in the act re: what you say).

  • This is badly written drivel. There would be a general election if the house of commons have a vote of no confidence. It is automatic if a new leader of the government doesn’t get a vote of confidence. Also, there is plenty of time for a 2nd referendum – which is almost certain when May’s deal is rejected next week.

    Also, there’s no need for the apostrophe in MPs

  • Tahir Maher Tahir Maher 5th Dec '18 - 8:24am

    @rod – actually the general election is not automatic. The party in power is given an opportunity to make changes and have i believe 20 days before another party takes over or a general election is called. Regarding the referendum – by law, the referendum requires 10 weeks (to make your case etc) after it has passed through parliament. After December 11th (doing the sums and MPs (thanks for that by the way) breaking up for Christmas) it does not leave any or very little time before March 29th.

  • John Marriott 5th Dec '18 - 9:20am

    In answer to the question, it certainly won’t be Vince Cable. In the immortal words of Catherine Tate’s character; “Am I bovvered?”

  • Mick Taylor 5th Dec '18 - 9:24am

    Parliament is supreme and can legislate for anything it wants and has passed emergency legislation in 24 hours before now. So it can quickly legislate for a referendum if that’s what it wants. Legislation does not bind Parliament unless it decides it does.
    The FTPA is clear in the case of a vote of no confidence. 14 days are allowed for a vote of confidence in the government or a new one or an election takes place automatically.
    If the May plan for Brexit is defeated then all bets are off. I have never believed it was likely that the (mainly) gutless MPs would have the courage to do what happened yesterday. It now seems possible that the ludicrous Brexit plan will be defeated, so what Liberal Democrats must urgently do is:
    1. Prepare for a General Election
    2. Urgently produce a plan to tackle the very real issues thrown up by the vote to leave to put forward in such a GE
    3. Have a workable plan for winning a referendum

  • So the outcome is looking like:
    1. May loses on Dec 11th
    2. In a No confidence motion, Parliament votes to keep the current government – the Conservatives created the mess, they can clean it up.
    3. May refuses to resign.
    4. The chair of the 1922 committee, keeps quiet as insufficient letters are received – as no one wants to be the stalking horse and risk actually having the responsibility to delivery ‘Brexit’.
    5. Parliament decides it likes “taking back control” and dictates the ‘Brexit’ deal that May must now negotiate – potentially this could be a No Brexit deal.
    6. The media will be full of unhappy shouty delusional people, but does it really matter?

    The only question is whether May resigns after delivering ‘Brexit’, as in some ways it would be useful for her and the Conservatives to continue to hold office for a few more years and so be forced to weather the initial backlash and to start repairing the damage they have done to the UK’s reputation.

  • David Becket 5th Dec '18 - 11:36am

    @ Mick Taylor
    You are right about our three priorities.
    Debating who is going to replace May is a waste of our time, The UK can revoke Brexit, and timing for the referendum is open to argument .
    We also have to cope with the headlines such as those in the Express today that will create anger.
    So let us concentrate on priorities.

  • Yeovil Yokel 5th Dec '18 - 11:40am

    Well said Mick & David.
    I don’t think May will jump, she’ll have to be pushed.

  • Sandra Hammett 5th Dec '18 - 1:42pm

    Mick and David are right about what SHOULD be the Lib Dem priorities.
    Though the feeling in my gut says that the May plan will be defeated, a vote of no confidence in the government will win and an agreement by Tory and Labour ‘moderates’ for joining EFTA will be struck.
    The Tories get a potential stepping stone to full Brexit.
    Labour maintain a trading relationship with the EU and can keep their Leave voters loyal.
    Kick the can down the road.

  • Tahir Mahir and Richard Church , The relevant section of the Act is:

    “2 Early parliamentary general elections

    (3) An early parliamentary general election is also to take place if—

    (a) the House of Commons passes a motion in the form set out in subsection (4), and

    (b) the period of 14 days after the day on which that motion is passed ends without the House passing a motion in the form set out in subsection (5)”.

    Tahir, do you have a reference to the relevant act for your 10 weeks needed for a referendum?

  • Raab or Leadsom. Or May will use the situation to make a stand. But to be honest, I think hardline-Remainers sense of relief will be short lived.

  • Tahir Maher Tahir Maher 5th Dec '18 - 6:28pm

    Michael BG – under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA – https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/41/contents), a 10-week campaign period is specified for referendums. Also if a law was passed to have a referendum, (which in itself would take some time) then the Electoral Commission would have to advise on the “intelligibility” of the referendum question, a process that usually takes 12 weeks – that is as stated in the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/20/not-enough-time-to-hold-referendum-on-final-deal-before-brexit). Hence why I say possibly not enough time before the end of March 2019 to have another referendum.

  • Graham Evans 5th Dec '18 - 6:43pm

    Surely if emergency legislation on a referendum were agreed it could include provision to shorten the campaign. Similarly the idea that the Electoral Commission couldn’t quickly come up with an intelligible question is itself questionable. On the other hand approving a Brexit referendum question which specified the end but not the means in retrospect wasn’t very clever!

  • Tahir, you didn’t reference the part of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act which states a referendum campaign has to 10 weeks. I couldn’t see such a section. Section 102 (3) states that the referendum period is set in the act setting up the referendum but must not be more than six months [102 (4)]. Section 103 states that the date of the poll can be fixed in the referendum act.

    There is no timescale for the Commission to publish their view on the intelligibility of the question, but it has to be “as soon as reasonably practicable after the Bill is introduced” [section 104 (2)]. Therefore it can be done during the period that the bill is going through Parliament.

    I don’t see why there couldn’t be a referendum held on 21st March 2019 with the act being passed on 13th February, which would give just over 4 weeks to pass it and 5 weeks for the campaign.

    However, it would be much more sensible for the House of Commons if it tells the government to produce legislation for a referendum to also tell it to request an extension on Article 50 from the EU. The extension may only be granted until about 10th April when the notice for the Euro elections should be published.

  • David Warren 5th Dec '18 - 7:47pm

    My long shot for next Tory leader is Priti Patel.

    Just a hunch.

    25/1 with Paddy Power.

  • Hence why I say possibly not enough time before the end of March 2019 to have another referendum.

    This ignores the part the EU can play in all this. The EU can agree an extension to the Art.50 deadline, indications are that the EU might agree to an extension if it permits democratic process to take place. However, the UK will have to ask, I suspect the government will only ask if directed to do so by Parliament.

  • The only one who knows – or perhaps more accurately might know – is the Prime Minister herself. She seems to be good at making badly thought out decisions under pressure, so maybe she will surprise everyone including herself.
    The chance that the timing is an accident is remote. The planning is no doubt being done at least by the government, but no doubt other parties.
    The contribution by Mick Taylor saying what the party should do is key. The party needs to have plans in place. One of the first elements of any plan should be identying resources. I only hope that there are some!

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Dec '18 - 9:05pm

    Ebenezer Scrooge,

    The Department of Work and Pension has confirmed that there will be no £10 Christmas bonus for those on universal credit.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Dec '18 - 10:47pm

    Ken Clarke has stood for the Tory leadership three times, including once with the support of John Redwood who was one of John Major’s “bastards”. This was not convincing. He did not win. His memoirs also include occasions when he did not stand. Maybe he could lead a coalition government, but he has already said that he would retire at the next general election, although he changed his mind and was re-elected in 2017. He meant at the end of a five year parliament from 2015, that was 2020. It would now be 2022.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Dec '18 - 11:06pm

    The DUP are not the sole voice of Northern Ireland. There is one survivor of what used to be the largest NI party, then led by David Trimble, now a conservative peer. The widely respected Sylvia Hermon who spoke in the Commons on 4/12/2018.

  • @David Raw

    “Who should succeed May ? Easy Peasy. Dig up Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman :”

    I am shocked given your previous posts that you should propose someone so recent 😉 ! I would have thought you would be going back to at least Gladstone. I have struggled to find a particularly apt quote on the internet from him but I do like:

    “You cannot fight against future. Time is on its side.”

    He would though think that May was a very great person indeed as he said no-one : “ever became great or good except through many and great mistakes”!

  • A memorable Gladstone quote often recalled is “Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.”
    This seems to describe the current state of affairs around Brexit and the Conservative party quite well.

  • Roger Billins 6th Dec '18 - 9:19am

    Like everything else the identity of the next P.M and the timing of his or her appointment is shrouded in mystery and the person who puts money on the successful candidate could happily retire. There are huge obstacles in the way. What I hope is that, like 1940, a Churchill figure emerges from the back benches to lead a government of national unity to deliver us from the evil and gloom brought on us by two successive governments. I have never been a fan of the second vote and would much prefer us to go the Norway plus route. That will deliver Brexit with no damage and a future government, with the necessary mandate, could return us to where we belong. Might go to the bookies at lunch time..or not.

  • John Marriott 6th Dec '18 - 10:39am

    There have been some interesting contributions to this thread. Here’s something you ‘experts’ might want to consider. Rather than speculating who might succeed Mrs May, assuming that her ‘deal’ crashes to defeat next week, how about speculating WHAT might succeed her?

    Now that Parliament appears to have regained some kind of supremacy, what is to stop a kind of Government of a National Unity being formed? Granted that this might make a mockery of party politics; but, honestly, I am getting sick and poisoned to death with what is currently going on in the name of democracy. I’m sure that most, if not all, of the LDV ‘serious’ contributors will excoriate the idea; but we cannot keep on fiddling while Rome burns. I just wish that ALL parties would fess up and stop trying to score brownie points off each other – and that includes the Lib Dems.

    Like Max Hastings in a recent article in The Times, both my wife and I are getting fed up with having to hold our tongues with Leave supporting friends, because we want to stay friends with them. After all, being a Leaver doesn’t make you a bad person, does it? It’s time for us all to grow up and come to a compromise, that will not suit everyone, especially the 38% of the adult population that supported Leave two years ago, most of whom have NOT changed their mind and probably never will.

    There are elements in all the parties at Westminster, even including the DUP, that I could see in an Alliance, which I reckon the EU, the financial markets, industry and, above all, the majority of the British people, would support, which could fashion the kind of ‘deal’ that might buy us some precious time in which both we and our European neighbours could fashion a modus vivendi, especially if there are a few shocks following next year’s EU Parliamentary Elections.

  • nvelope2003 6th Dec '18 - 12:11pm

    Maybe it is time to change the status of Northern Ireland. The majority of the people there voted to remain but the 10 DUP MPs are ardent Brexiteers and support a Conservative Government so they do not represent the voters. There are no Nationalist MPs at Westminster as Sinn Fein refuse to attend. Lady Sylvia Hermon an Independent MP (formerly Ulster Unionist) is apparently considering voting for Mrs May’s deal.
    As a result of a scandal involving the DUP leader there has been no NI devolved Government since January 2017 – almost 2 years although the Assembly members are still being paid most of their salary. This is a vassal state but one which has the support of the Conservative party whenever they need it although it is culturally quite unlike the rest of the UK. The DUP have said that they will vote for the Government in any confidence motion despite opposing Mrs May’s deal. The views of the majority of NI voters are being ignored

    After all this chaos is over a new Government should consider giving Northern Ireland a status similar to that of the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands when they would be unable to exercise their malign influence at Westminster and would have to govern themselves in a responsible way respecting all their people without the guarantee of the support of British taxpayers except for defence and foreign relations. In view of their referendum vote they would remain in the EU and solve the Border issue with the Irish Republic.

  • Yeovil Yokel 6th Dec '18 - 1:56pm

    nvelope 2003 – it’s a naive suggestion, I know, bu maybe it’s time Sinn Fein compromised over their long-standing objection to taking the oath to the Crown and took their seats at Westminster. It would mean that their constituents at last have representation within the UK Parliament, and it could cause a dramatic shift in the balance of power in the current HoC.

  • nvelope2003 6th Dec '18 - 2:40pm

    Yeovil Yokel: Sinn Fein only recently reaffirmed their decision not to take their seats in what they consider a foreign parliament. Maybe if they had the majority of seats they might reconsider but I suspect if this happened the Conservatives would not be quite so keen on supporting the Union which is an anachronism because Ireland has its own Government in Dublin. Unfortunately this might result in bloodshed as one of their leaders said that even if there was a vote to end the border with the South the Unionists would not necessarily accept it. Whilst they were happy to have Brexit with a majority of one vote the same would not apply to a border poll as a higher percentage would need to apply. Yes you could not make it up and that is why NI is totally different.

  • Unfortunately the Irish backstop cannot be taken in isolation.
    Once the Union is weakened in this way, full unification of Ireland is inevitable. Scotland following shortly after.
    @ John Marriott. I would subscribe to your viewpoint but I don’t think the Leave side are in any mood to compromise. Some of our so called leaders are being completely irresponsible. The likes of Liam Fox using words like ‘stealing’ is tantamount to incitement IMO. Whilst I have marched in support of a’ Peoples Vote’ I do fear it’s consequences. I think the only option is for our leaders to lead more and follow less. Revoke or extend article 50 and go to the EU for migration reform and a deal based upon us staying in the EU. An inquiry into the 2016 referendum and a white paper on our options.
    Free votes across parliament on Brexit related issues. Our MPs and our political parties need to grow up a be responsible. This is a disaster in making and MPs will not be forgiven for the consequences.

  • @ Joe Bourke. Yes, I was aware of the motto, Joe, but pleased to see you post it. It was my privilege to accompany a post dams member of the Squadron to see the dams on the 70th anniversary in 2013.

    Dad was in 175 Squadron – motto ‘Stop at Nothing’ – flying Hawker Typhoons in 1944/45 .

  • Mick Taylor 8th Dec '18 - 9:22pm

    PJ. Why do we need migration reform? All that is necessary is to apply the existing rules (that no UK government has so far) that allow for any EU government to send back to their home country any EU citizen who has not got a job after a specified period (3 months?). Most EU countries do that already.
    Also we are allowed to restrict the benefits EU free movement citizens can claim, but we don’t and most EU countries do.
    The job is to explain that to a very sceptical electorate.

  • In any case, as has already happened in 2017, an early election is allowed by the FIxed Term Parliament Act if there is a 2/3 majority for it. This is always more likely than it might seem as if the government proposes an election, the opposition will look weak and scared if it says no (unless an election was coming in a year or less anyway).

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