Monday, 11 July 2016

The Eighties strike back

A female Prime Minister, the Pound tumbling against the Dollar, a Labour Party riven with divisions and Rick Astley in the UK top 40 chart. The 1980s have come back, with a bang.

Theresa May is set to become our new Prime Minister on Wednesday evening, following the sudden departure of Andrea Leadsom from the Tory leadership contest.

The day was due to be dominated by the turmoil bubbling inside the Labour Party, with Angela Eagle launching a bid for the leadership at a press conference earlier today.

However, all this was blown out of the water, when whispers began to swirl about the fate of Andrea Leadsom's campaign to become Tory leader around midday today. 

An article published in the Times on 9th July appears to have been the catalyst for today's sudden turn of events: Times journalist Rachel Sylvester conducted an interview with Leadsom a few days ago, where she made the claim that "being a mum means having a very real stake in the future of our country".

Those words proved fatal, given that Theresa May had revealed in an interview with the Mail on Sunday over a week before that she and her husband wanted children but she was unable to. An article written following the Leadsom story, Rachel Sylvester commented that Leadsom's "suggestion that motherhood gave her a 'stake' in the future of the country was crashingly naive than calculatingly cruel".

Whatever Leadsom's reasoning was, it quite likely cost the Brexit faction its remaining shot at clinching No. 10, having lost first Boris Johnson, and then Michael Gove, following his so-called "knifing-in-the-front".

For the Tories, the future is clear; Theresa May will move into No. 10 by Wednesday, and markets are likely to cheer up, now that there won't be a seemingly endless leadership race for an entire summer. Today alone, the domestic-orientated FTSE 250 index rallied 3.3%, bolstered by Andrea Leadsom dropping out it seems.

Mr Cameron will likely visit the Queen after a last hurrah at PMQs, over 6 years after he started his job. Theresa May intends to respect the wishes of the 52% by delivering Brexit, perhaps by 2019-20. A whole new government department will be established especially to facilitate Brexit, headed by a pro-Brexit government minister.

The future for the Labour Party is a whole other kettle of fish. Differing legal advice has left some in a state of confusion over whether Jeremy Corbyn will be included on any leadership ballot or not.

The party's rule-book unhelpfully makes the matter open to interpretation:

"Where there is no vacancy, nominations may be sought by potential challengers each year prior to the annual session of party conference..."

"In this case any nomination must be supported by 20% of the combined Commons members of the [parliamentary Labour party] and members of the [European parliamentary Labour party]. Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void"

What is significant is the use of the word "may" rather than "shall" in the first sentence. It makes the 20% of MPs/MEPs bit seem optional, at a time when the party needs a more concrete idea of what constitutes a legitimate leadership bid. Mr Corbyn's allies could read this to mean he doesn't need nominations, and could just run again, by virtue of being leader.

What we know for sure is as follows: Angela Eagle is openly challenging Mr Corbyn for the leadership, and it's being reported that she received enough nominations, according to Iain McNicol, Labour's General Secretary. Owen Smith, who has had 2 shadow ministerial posts since 2012, is reportedly mulling over launching a bid of his own.

Such a move could be risky for the anti-Corbyn faction; it may split the vote and score a spectacular own goal. Of course, it might all be for nought, whatever machinations are put in Jeremy Corbyn's path; there's been another surge in Labour Party membership, taking it to about 515k people.

This new post-referendum surge may well be just more Corbynistas, joining to protect their leading light. If they give Mr Corbyn a resounding victory, the PLP is highly-likely to split. Owen Smith got into a high-profile Twitter spat with John McDonnell over a potential split, as evidenced below:

Len McCluskey, head of the massive Unite union insists Jeremy Corbyn is going nowhere and Unison's Dave Prentis seconds that. However, according to a fresh YouGov poll of Labour-affiliated trade union members, 58% believe he should quit before the next election. 63% claim he is doing his job poorly, and out of those who want him to quit, 45% think he should leave as soon as possible.

In case Corbynistas were holding onto the belief that affiliates think Mr Corbyn has what it takes to become Prime Minister, they will be disappointed. 76% of respondents from this new YouGov poll also claim they don't believe Mr Corbyn will ever grace the threshold of No. 10, just as Theresa May is due to, come Wednesday evening.

More data on the YouGov poll is available here.

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