James Forsyth

Theresa May is clinging on – but not for much longer

Theresa May is clinging on – but not for much longer
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Theresa May’s promise to bring the withdrawal agreement bill to the Commons next month has proved enough for the 1922 Executive. A statement just released by its chairman Sir Graham Brady following their meeting with the Prime Minister says simply that he and her ‘will meet following the 2


reading of the bill to agree a timetable for the election of a new leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party’.

If second reading of the bill fails, Theresa May will be out of options. At that point, she will have little choice but to stand down.

Some loyalist MPs fear that a desire to hasten her departure will lead to MPs voting the bill down. Today’s statement attempts to head that off by saying that the timetable will be set regardless of what happens with the vote.

The question for Theresa May is why should second reading of the bill succeed, when the withdrawal agreement failed by 58 votes back in March? There is no reason why it should. Some in Number 10 hope that the Brexit Party might do well enough in Labour areas to pressure them into letting the bill through at second reading. But this seems highly unlikely right now.

What is certain now is that there will be a new Tory leader sooner rather than later with the contest beginning before the summer recess.