Will Theresa May Try to Stay?

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The BBC reports that the prime minister hasn’t decided what to do next:

Theresa May’s mood was “calm” and “sombre” when she addressed staff at Conservative Party HQ – but she “didn’t directly refer to her future”, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg says.

She didn’t say she would stay, and the fact she didn’t mention this could mean she hasn’t made up her mind yet, and “puts the chance of resignation on the table”, Laura adds.

Indeed. But, in concert with reports that May has called for a “period of stability,” it also “could mean” that she may be hoping to hang on. 

If so, that would be a mistake. Britain had a “stable” government when May called the election. Sure, it wasn’t the government that she ideally wanted, but she had a majority and it wasn’t going anywhere. She, not external forces, changed that. Now she’s weaker and Britain is less “stable.” If the Tories stay in power, it will be in coalition with the DUP.

What, I wonder, is the case for her staying on? Having become prime minister solely because the last one resigned, she can hardly claim to be indispensable; she was not, let’s say, the obvious or much-desired choice. Having made this campaign about herself and then so spectacularly blown it, she cannot claim a mandate from the people. And, having materially diminished herself, her party, and the prospects for Brexit, she cannot credibly sell herself as a “steady” or “wise” hand. Yes, if she resigns, things will be even more dramatic, and the Brexit negotiations may have to be delayed a few weeks. But what is worse: A month or so of turmoil, or Britain’s sending into battle a mortally wounded emissary? May’s whole pitch was “give me your proxy.” The British people declined to do so. How she can stay is beyond me.

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