If there is one word to describe British politics in it’s current state, it has to be volatile. Nearly anywhere you look, there is conflict, dispute and utter chaos. One thing that is unique is that all of the major parties have leaders who are either in a weak, or in some cases a precarious position. It really isn’t hard to imagine all of the main parties in British politics, having some sort of leadership challenge or change over the next few months leading up to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, in March 2019.
Ever since the botched snap election that Theresa May called in 2017 to strengthen her hand, she has been weak and beleaguered. Most observers were shocked that there was not an immediate challenge to her leadership, in the wake of the contest that led to her losing the majority that David Cameron acquired in 2017. Her saving grace at the time was Brexit, she was still supportive of the mantra she had declared for so long of “Brexit means Brexit”. The leadership talk did not end there, with many showing disapproval due to her response the Grenfell, the infamous conference speech and a botched reshuffle, however none of them have truly threatened her, compared to the Chequers Deal.
The Chequers Deal, which saw the cabinet have an away day, earlier this month, led to the resignations of David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, and Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, both of whom were considered big beats and key architects behind Brexit sent shockwaves, not only through Westminster, but the country at large. It seemed that this was finally it, for the Prime Minister who was being kept on life support by those ‘Hard Brexiters’ who this deal ultimately betrayed.
In the weeks after the Deal, the scrutiny of the Prime Minister and her leadership has not subsided. The ERG, a group led by backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg, forced the Prime Minister into a humiliating backdown over amendments to the Trade Bill, and the ‘Remainer’ wing of the party nearly brought her down as well with their support for a Customs Union, if a deal had not been reached by the end of the Brexit process.
Many journalists and people within the party say that autumn is going to be tough for the Prime Minister. We have seen that the European Union have poured cold water on a deal, that barely had any life to start with, and this is made even more difficult with an every growing discontent from her own grassroots that could reach it’s pinnacle at the party conference this October.
It is not hard to see many Conservative MPs returning from their summer breaks, after spending a few weeks with many grassroots members (including some from the Prime Minister’s own constituency of Maidenhead) and realising that it is time for a no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister which if successful, would subsequently lead to a leadership contest and a new Prime Minister. Even if this doesn’t happen in the autumn, Theresa May will only last until Brexit day itself, at best.
Only a few weeks ago, a leadership challenge within the Labour Party seemed extremely unlikely — especially after what happened to Owen Smith in 2016 — however the anti-semitism crisis that has plagued the party since Corbyn came to power in September 2015, has come to the forefront. This has been further exacerbated by the shock tirade between veteran Jewish MP, Margaret Hodge, and the Labour leader himself.
This is furthered by the fact many in Momentum, a group set up to support Corbyn’s leadership of the party, openly admit to holding anti-semitic views. As well as this, it has started to affect the party electorally. At the local elections in May, Labour actually lost control of Barnet Council, to the Conservatives, mainly down to the lack of votes from the Jewish community, the same issue was there at the 2017 general election — where Corbyn’s Labour failed to pick up three seats in North London, due to his party’s treatment of Jews.
If the anti-semitism crisis continues to grow, and senior MPs come out to support Hodge and co., it is not difficult to see a plan to remove Mr. Corbyn as Labour leader. However, in the current climate, this would be difficult as he did make significant gains at last year’s election and is also overwhelmingly backed by his grassroots — which was seen in both the 2015 and 2016 leadership elections.
The Liberal Democrats
Vince Cable only became the leader of the Lib Dems last year, however the scrutiny and criticism of his leadership has rapidly become an issue within party circles. Vince’s leadership issues came to light after he missed a vote on a amendment which would have led Britain further towards a ‘Soft Brexit, the amendment only failed to pass by three votes.
The talk about Vince’s leadership becoming weaker, came to light after a report suggesting that he be replaced by the Oxford West and Abingdon MP, Layla Moran.
Many within the party see Vince as a liability, rather than an asset, and believe that if the party were to be taken over by a younger MP, such as Jo Swinson or Layla Moran, they would be performing much better in polls and by-elections.
This could be a very real prospect, and it is even a possibility that Vince cease to be leader of the Lib Dems, before either May or Corbyn are ousted from their parties.
As it currently stands UKIP will be having a leadership election early next year, because the current leader, Gerrard Batten, stated he would call one a year after he became leader. This could prove to be a heated contest, if Theresa May continues to plow ahead with her Chequers Deal — the party polled at 8 per cent recently, their best showing since April 2017.
One possibility is that Nigel Farage, who was the backbone of Brexit, could return and retake the leadership of the party he led to nearly 4 million votes at the 2015 General Election. If Nigel were to come back, this would bode badly for the Prime Minister, as he has the ability to win over voters, who moved to the Conservatives after May supposedly backed a ‘Hard Brexit’.
This contest could have wider implications, not only for their party, but for also for the Conservatives — if they’re seen to be betraying Brexit.
The Green Party is officially having a leadership contest this autumn to replace one of it’s co-leaders, meaning this is the only certainty in this post.