Whilst the rituals of Theresa May taking power – travelling to the palace to meet the Queen, statement in Downing Street, briefing she will take a Cabinet reshuffle – have taken place today, make no mistake that the Prime Minister is living on borrowed time.
Her gamble has backfired in the most spectacular fashion, and all the blame leads back to her door. The bunker-like decision-making; the centralisation of power; the hyper-cautious election campaign, and the manifesto that alienated a huge proportion of traditional Tory voters. All of that was down to Theresa May and her team, and if there was someone that the Conservatives could unite around instead, then May would almost certainly be gone already. But there is not, and so she struggles on for the time being at least.
The Tory Government that does form will be weak and reliant upon a partner to get key votes through the House of Commons. For now, this is the Democratic Unionist Party – who have a total of 10 MPs, meaning with the Tories 318/9 (one seat is yet to declare) they have an effective majority of 13/15. The two parties are fairly close and the DUP are strongly hostile to Jeremy Corbyn due to his association with the Irish Republican movement. As the best long term partners for the Tories this puts the DUP in a strong position to extract money for Northern Ireland for the UK Government. Expect large cheques to be winging across the Irish Sea and a lot of criticism over DUP policies in Northern Ireland, such as opposing same sex marriage and abortion.
The other consequence of the DUP relationship and the majority is that it could throw Brexit into chaos. The DUP back a robust Brexit, but want to prioritise a soft border with Ireland despite the difficulties this creates. May has not got hard Brexit, soft Brexit and DUP Brexit to juggle. Our departure from the EU has got more, rather than less complex due to the hung parliament returned last night.
Back home, it took time to strike a conciliatory tone as she returned to Downing Street this afternoon – at first she struck a defiant note before retreating a few hours later to a more contrite position. Yet her agenda lies in tatters. The Conservative Party might not agree on much, but they agree that she has failed. Her attempt to fuse Miliband-lite policies onto a patriotic/nationalist (take your pick) bandwagon has crashed straight into the ditch and lost the majority Cameron so painstakingly scraped together. She faces the reality of a minority Government in the Commons and a House of Lords which can block anything outside of her Manifesto – a Manifesto that will now surely have to be binned given it nearly obliterated a twenty-point lead in the polls.
Despite repeating the fact she wants to serve for ‘five years’ on her re-entry to Downing Street, anything like this seems unlikely. May has now entered the twilight of what seems doomed to be a short period of Government. The only question is how long this May twilight will last – days, weeks, or months?