British media say time’s up for Theresa May, but it wouldn’t be the first time
British Prime Minister Theresa May appears to be in trouble yet again.
On Saturday, senior cabinet ministers reportedly decided that May must resign. The Sunday Times spoke to 11 ministers “who confirmed that they wanted the prime minister to make way for someone else.” That someone else was thought to be her deputy, David Lidington, at least in the short term, although he said Sunday that he does not want the job. Another name floated was Michael Gove, a longtime rival, but the environment secretary was quoted as saying that now is “not the time to change the captain of the ship.”
May, then, has to deal with an alleged insurrection while trying to get her Brexit withdrawal agreement through Parliament in the coming week.
But it seems that, once again, May will hang on a little longer. Ministers on Sunday denied plotting to oust their leader. And according to a Downing Street spokesman, “The PM and a number of Government Ministers met today at Chequers for lengthy talks with senior colleagues about delivering Brexit. The meeting discussed a range of issues, including whether there is sufficient support in the Commons to bring back a Meaningful Vote this week.”
Much of May’s tenure as prime minister has been marked by her battle to hold on to her job, and by reports of her imminent demise that were followed by – May still being prime minister. Below are a few of her most famous fights for survival since taking the job in 2016.
In 2017, May called for snap elections. They were meant to strengthen her mandate. After all, the economy was strong, and her party was favored heavily over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. But her party lost seats, the election resulted in a hung government, and May had to form an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party to stay in power. Almost immediately, rumors started swirling that she would be out imminently. Former chancellor George Osborne called her a “dead woman walking.” Some thought Boris Johnson, foreign secretary at the time, would move in for the kill. Instead, he sent WhatsApp messages to top Tories telling them to support May. And they did.
Johnson went on to resign as foreign secretary one year later. The day after her Brexit minister quit, Johnson followed, complaining that May was pushing a “semi-Brexit.” His brother, Jo Johnson, quit the government a few months later, not because he thought the Brexit agreement wasn’t Brexit-y enough, but because he thought that the Brexit process itself was a mess and that there should be another referendum on leaving the European Union.
In early December, May’s government was found in contempt of Parliament. At issue was the government’s refusal to publish its full legal advice on May’s Brexit deal. It was the first time in parliamentary history that the British government was found in contempt by members. The vote was followed by debate on her Brexit deal, which managed to dissatisfy Corbyn and Boris Johnson. Corbyn suggested that the prime minister should step aside.
Roughly a week later, May survived a no-confidence vote. The call for the vote came from opponents within her own party. It was a party-only vote, and May won. “This has been a long and challenging day. But, at the end of it, I’m pleased to have received the backing of my colleagues in tonight’s ballot,” she said.
The next month, May’s government survived another no-confidence vote. This House of Commons motion was raised by Corbyn, and it was defeated. The day before, members of Parliament had defeated May’s Brexit withdrawal deal. May said after the no-confidence vote that she would work anew to deliver on Brexit.
Her deal was defeated a second time in Parliament two months later.