ANALYSIS: Theresa May's political authority evaporates completely after Brexit vote delayed

Posted On: 
10th December 2018

Spare a thought for Michael Gove.

Theresa May's Brexit strategy has disintegrated.
PA Images

That's not really a sentence I ever thought I would have to write. But it the Environment Secretary, who pulled back from the brink of resignation over the Brexit deal a fortnight ago, was the one sent onto the Today programme this morning to tell the nation that the meaningful vote was "100%" going ahead.

Barely three hours later, Gove was among those on a conference call with the Prime Minister at which she told her Cabinet that the vote would not be happening after all.

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And it's not just the MP for Surrey Heath who has every right to be feeling bruised right now. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay - who only got the job when Gove knocked it back following Dominic Raab's resignation - went on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday to also state that the vote was happening, amid Sunday paper reports that a delay was likely.

These things matter, especially since Theresa May had very little political capital to spend to begin with. Why should either of those ministers - or Jeremy Hunt, who also told reporters this morning that the vote was happening - show her anny loyalty when they have been publically humiliated?

In truth, May was lucky to get away with her insistence that there would be no general election right up until the point she surprised us all by calling one. The only thing that saved her then was the fact that we were all distracted by the fact that said election was a disaster for her and her party.

And now it looks as though, if her desire to change tomorrow night's Commons business is put to a vote by MPs, she could lose that as well, meaning she will have burned her colleagues for absolutely no benefit whatsoever.

To survive in office, a Prime Minister must lead a government which commands the confidence of the House of Commons. As she surveys the wreckage of her Brexit strategy this afternoon, the question must be whether the Prime Minister can possibly command the confidence of her government.