David Cameron held his last Prime Minister’s Questions today. It was a rousing affair, full of verbal jousts with the opposition, witty remarks about Jeremy Corbyn’s tenuous position atop the Labour party, and a palpable relief at finally being rid of the burden of governance. Theresa May, who will succeed Cameron in a matter of hours, once he submits his resignation to the Queen, sat next to him on the front bench, all smiles but surely harboring some apprehension about the days to come.
Theresa May will be Britain’s second female prime minister, making the record, as Cameron noted, 2-0 in favor of the Tories. Like Gordon Brown before Cameron, she has ascended to the highest office in the land without facing the electorate, through an intra-party reshuffle instead of a general election. She faces a Herculean task: uniting a disjointed political scene while also negotiating a Brexit settlement palatable to enough of the electorate to be politically viable. If all goes right, she could secure a period of dominance for the Conservative party, aided along the way by Labour’s internal incoherence; any missteps, though, could spell doom for the party and economic disaster for the country.
May’s government will take shape in the coming days. George Osborne is rumored to be out as chancellor, apparently to be replaced by Philip Hammond. Chris Grayling may take charge of a Brexit taskforce. If the speculation is true, three-quarters of the top four posts in government will go to women.
One of the big questions in the coming weeks and months will be: Will May call a general election? With Labour in crisis, and the unelectable Corbyn likely to win another leadership contest, it wouldn’t be altogether surprising to see one called before October. May also, in a sense, lacks a democratic mandate, having never contested a general election; fighting and winning one now would provide her with both a mandate and a vision for the type of Brexit her government will negotiate.
Good luck to Theresa May — as she wades into a sea of uncertainty, she’ll need it.