Parliament has finally risen for the summer, with MPs departing to foreign beaches and their own constituencies. This year, the summer recess cannot come quickly enough for an exhausted Number 10. While Theresa May has the support of backbenchers horrified by the constant backbiting and posturing of much of her Cabinet ahead of a future leadership contest, the truth is that the backbiting and posturing is the inevitable result of a terminally weakened leadership.
It is unclear whether Theresa May will be able to survive until the end of the year, let alone conclude the Brexit negotiations in 2019, negotiations which will mean forcing through a deal that much of the Conservative party sees as either too extreme or too weak. In this final parliamentary week the Government did not even dare table legislation in case it could not scrape together a parliamentary majority. There is still Government activity, but it is on secondary issues or areas already in train.
In terms of the next leader, there is no consensus for a coronation. Yet some Conservatives increasingly wonder whether a fight would be so bad. Jeremy Corbyn fought two leadership battles and came out stronger. And after all, aren’t the Conservatives supposed to be the party of competition? Against that remains fear of a contest so bitter that the Tories could not unite afterward, leading to Government collapse, a General Election and a Corbyn victory.
Politics is a strange mix of intellect and instinct. As Tory MPs relax over the summer it is likely that a view will emerge in the minds of a majority that May should either stay a while longer or go sooner. We will have to see in September what the Conservative hive mind thinks. Until then, Field advises everyone to have a relaxing summer break – we are sure this Autumn will continue the political roller coaster of recent years!