Yes: Luke Dunne
Since losing her majority in 2017, it has always seemed inevitable that Theresa May would eventually face the consequences of relying on every discordant element of the Conservative Party to hold together her government, in the face of a Brexit settlement that would surely leave some disappointed. The day when the irreconcilable divide within the Conservative Party brings down the government now seems to be fast approaching – whether or not the Moggites are able to force a no-confidence vote in the leader from within, her Brexit deal seems sure to be defeated in the Commons.
We now know that the DUP will vote against the current agreement, as will many of her own MPs. Even assuming a conservative estimate is true, there should be at least 30 hold outs from both extreme Leavers and Remainers, leaving her around 40 votes short of a majority. A few Labour rebels wouldn’t make up the difference, and moreover the idea that any more than a handful would vote to save this government for a deal in which they had no say is absurd.
In reality, there is no mandate for the current deal within Parliament. Moreover, it is unlikely that there is a mandate for any deal within the Conservative Party. The dual concerns of the Tory party are, as they always have been, patriotic nationalism and free market capitalism. In the case of Brexit, the two are simply mutually exclusive. This government will never negotiate for the best possible deal and will never pass a Brexit deal through Parliament. All the while, time runs out to reach a permanent settlement with the EU. Of course, it seems more likely May will dig in and our country’s future will be damned.
May should accept she has failed her near-impossible task, and do what we do in a democracy, when a government can no longer properly represent the people. Call an election, and let us vote to change it.
No: Joseph Clark
Theresa May is unlikely to be topping many ‘Best Prime Ministers of all time’ polls, and with a net approval rating of -32 at the end of October, ousting her would certainly be cathartic. That does not make it a sensible course of action. Recall that at the moment there is no issue more pressing than obtaining a Brexit deal with Parliamentary and European support that can at least take Britain smoothly into a transitional exit period.
Unhappily, parliamentary maths at present thwarts any proposal that a leader could put forward. Once an opportunist Labour Party is near unanimously resolved to denounce any Conservative Brexit bill, the remaining MPs can be split into entrenched camps of soft Brexit loyalists, People’s Vote activists (more of whom emerge from the Tory woodwork every day), and hard-line Eurosceptics. None have a majority in Parliament, and thus it might seem none could put forward a deal (or second referendum) that could resolve this deadlock. Indeed, the hard Brexit of Johnson or Rees-Mogg would have even less Parliamentary support than May’s consensus.
It’s also hard to imagine that Jeremy Corbyn, who if appointed now would be tasked with renegotiating two years’ worth of pernickety agreements in five months, despite never even having worked in a government department before. His party’s divisions on Brexit only fail to show as the leadership is not forced to take a stand on the issue. In truth, a leadership contest now would be nothing but an exercise in the kind of brazen procrastination that would make an Oxford student proud. Putting Sajid Javid or David Davis behind the desk changes nothing of Britain’s present situation when there is no reason to believe that they could secure a better deal, let alone in the eleventh hour.
If Parliament’s deadlock is to be resolved, it will not be done by changing who delivers the deal.