This morning, Young Dave chaired his last cabinet meeting. There were the customary tributes, the courteous farewells. Tomorrow he will take Prime Minister’s Questions for the last time. The removal firms have already fetched up in Downing Street, and perhaps not just for the occupant of Number 10. Some time tomorrow, Theresa May will arrive and her Premiership will begin. But one thing will be missing.
That was then ...
What might that be? Well, Cameron arrived in Downing Street after not just a General Election, but also a lengthy negotiation between the Tories and Lib Dems to agree a Coalition deal. The two parties together enjoyed a Commons majority of over 70. Ms May has not submitted herself to the test of the ballot box. Moreover, she has previous form for wanting an arriving Prime Minister to do so.
When Pa Broon succeeded the sainted Tone in 2007, as the Independent has reminded us, “the then shadow minister for women, said Mr Brown was ‘incompetent, lacking in vision, with the same old spin’ and ‘running scared of the people’s verdict’”. Moreover, she was not shy of quoting online petitions in support of her position.
... but this is now ...
This is what she then said: “Yesterday in Prime Minister's questions his excuse for not calling an election was that only 26 people had signed a Downing street petition calling for one. I checked the website this morning and there are now 4,408 signatures and rising. Can the Leader of the House arrange for the Prime Minister to give us an update on the petition every week in Prime Minister's questions?”
So, with the Labour Party experiencing its own problems right now, what’s to stop her from calling a snap General Election? Yes, there is the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, but there are usually ways and means for those politicians keen to make their mark. Or would Ms May rather wait, in the style of John Major, until a few by-elections take away that slim overall majority and make her dependent on fringe parties to pass legislation?
... and those were her words
Would she rather carry on as Jim Callaghan, another who took over the top job without submitting himself to the electorate, did, staggering from one crisis to another before being brought down by a vote of no confidence? Labour might look unable to force such an event right now, but a new leader who was good at working across party lines, with the SNP, Greens, Lib Dems and others could change all that.
The Tories might not think such a scenario credible. But had they been presented with an account of what has happened in the last few weeks, just after their triumphant return to majority Government last year, they would have laughed it out of court. Theresa May should remember her parting shot at Gordon Brown in 2007: “He has no democratic mandate. He has a reputation tainted by his failures after a decade in office. And he has no new ideas. An early election? Bring it on”.
So, will Ms May “bring it on”? Does she feel … lucky? Don’t hold your breath.