Can Theresa May fight the next election?

So, come on, a few months ago who thought we would be asking this question? Not many I guess! The fact we are is testament to how quickly things change at present in UK politics.

After a calamitous election campaign and a disastrous period immediately after, Theresa May to use the words of George Osborne appeared a “dead woman walking.” However, gradually the Prime Minister is now consolidating her position.

How has this happened? Well, firstly the Conservative Party and Theresa May have started to create positive headlines. The Autumn Budget and Spring Statement didn’t unravel, Gove’s environment reforms appear popular and the Prime Minister successfully reached an agreement with the EU on a transition deal.

Secondly, the Prime Minister reacted in a sensible and measured way to the poisoning of the Skripal’s in Salisbury, enjoying diplomatic success when fellow European countries expelled Russian diplomats. This performance has been in contrast to Jeremy Corbyn, who in the last month has faced accusations of anti-Semitism and being too close to Russia.

Thirdly, no-one in the Conservative Party is putting their hand up to be an obvious successor. Boris Johnson continues to move from one gaffe to another, Gavin Williamson looks out of his depth and there is still no unified movement behind Amber Rudd.

But, and there is a but, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it is important to remember a few things. One, the Prime Minister faces difficult local elections in May which could change the mood again. Two, the Prime Minister has to successfully pass a Brexit deal in Parliament. Three, she has to convince the Conservative party she is capable of fighting a successful General Election campaign.

My sense, is that although the Prime Minister’s position is far stronger than it has been for some time, it remains unlikely she will fight the next General Election. The Conservative Party are likely to see the opportunity to change leader post-Brexit as the correct strategic move, providing the new leader with a chance to settle in before the next General Election.

Additionally, there is still too much scepticism about the Prime Minister’s ability to fight a General Election campaign following the 2017 General Election despite an improvement in her position. However, that this debate is worth discussing is testament to the Prime Minister’s resilience and that in itself should be viewed as a success.

Article by Mike Hough

Photograph: The City AM

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