The past few days really haven’t gone well have they? At the time of writing we effectively don’t have a government, a leader of the opposition nor a shadow cabinet that is capable of outliving a mayfly. In the mean time, Boris dithers between forming self-championing cabals in his country retreat and playing cover-drives on the village green, while Jeremy Corbyn fights off inner-party coups at a rate that would put even Stalin’s delusional paranoia to shame.
The pound is at a three-decade low, Nigel Farage is causing us more ignominy in Europe than even Roy Hodgson and Scotland looks a dead-cert to depart the rest of the United Kingdom. It is nothing short of a crisis. Luckily a select group of very admirable women look ready to captain us through the turbulent times ahead – to use David Cameron’s analogy.
Whilst Boris is no doubt thinking up the next line of quips to accompany the divisively fervent propaganda in his next Telegraph column, Theresa May seems set to unite the cataclysmic schism in her party which has led us to this situation. And this is the very reason she will (probably) be our new Prime Minister come mid-September.
The Home Secretary was being touted as the ‘stop Boris’ candidate even before David Cameron had finished the lowly trudge back into Number 10 after announcing his resignation on Friday morning. Johnson is very much seen as something of a joke-figure by many in politics and whilst this may be appealing to some, it seriously is not to others.
Would the public really want to elect as PM a man whose CV of gaffs to date includes: head-butting an ex-German professional footballer in the genitals on live TV; getting comically stuck, dangling from a zip-wire; and rugby-tackling a small child in front of the country’s media? Many people think not.
May on the other-hand, is rumoured to be one of the hardest-working politicians in Westminster; regularly staying up past midnight, meticulously scouring through Home Office papers with pinpoint precision. Unlike other members of the cabinet she is also said to be incredibly adept at getting her own way, able to push through reforms in a way that would be the envy of most of her male colleagues.
A brutal pragmatist, she also played the referendum game better than arguably anyone else in the political sphere; subtly committing herself to remain but not to an extent as to cast herself in the public spotlight. This makes her the ideal person to bring together Right and Left, Eurosceptics and Unionists, Brexiters and Remainers.
In actual fact she really does have little competition from the left of the Parliamentary Conservative Party. Nobody had heard of Stephen Crabb a few months ago, Nicky Morgan is hated almost universally by teachers and Jeremy Hunt is, well Jeremy Hunt. May’s only real competition, excluding Boris, seems to be Andrea Leadsom, which could prove to be some real competition indeed.
Previously something of minor face within the Tory Party, the Energy Minister has shot to prominence over the last couple of months as one of the key figures in the Brexit camp. The MP for South Northamptonshire routinely delivered impressive TV performances under the media glare and recived widespread acclaim from the public as a result. Add to this the fact she argued for the winning side of the referendum and you really do have a serious candidate for the leadership.
Yet it is still Theresa May who has overtaken Johnson to become some bookies’ favourite to be the next PM. A recent YouGov poll has announced her as the most favoured candidate by the general population with the only people preferring Boris appearing to be, rather sceptically, UKIP voters. But who could it be standing opposite her at the dispatch box come October?
Well it probably will not be Jeremy Corbyn that’s for sure. The leader of the opposition has now not only lost most of his initial shadow cabinet but also a vote of no confidence by a staggeringly demoralising margin of 172 to 40. He does still appear to be supported by large swathes of the general public but it is difficult to see how he can cling onto power without the backing of so many of his own MP’s.
It now seems certain that the first challenger to Corbyn’s rule will be former shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle, formerly a close ally of the incumbent leader. But in the past days it has been Eagle leading the charge against Corbyn, claiming on Sky News that his reign has been punctuated by systematic communicational and organisational issues.
Residing in Parliament since 1992, Eagle is undoubtedly one of the most senior Labour ministers and has been tipped by many to break Labour’s rather embarrassing hoodoo of never having a female leader. Yet the former shadow minister does not enjoy the best of public images, certainly not to the scale Corbyn does; already – keeping with the theme of things – there is a petition calling for her to resign as MP of her Merseyside constituency due to her anti-leadership stance. Nevertheless, Eagle is said to have wide-support from MP’s and has strong trade-union links which positions her ideally to take over the leadership reigns with the looming prospect of a snap-election on the not so distant horizon.
Another figure who appears to be erring somewhat towards a leadership challenge is the formerly side-lined Yvette Cooper. The former Work and Pensions Minister was rather embarrassed in the leadership race following Ed Miliband’s resignation, winning only 17% of the vote despite being endorsed by Gordon Brown. But much like Tim Farron distanced himself from the general feeling of ambivalence towards the Clegg years of the Liberal Democrats, Cooper has done likewise in Corbyn’s reign and could be ideally positioned to swoop in for a successful leadership race.
Unfortunately for Eagle and Cooper, Labour’s male contingent seems far more adept than the Tory’s. Whilst none of Tom Watson, Dan Jarvis and Hilary Benn have until this moment expressed desires for the party’s top post, should any one of the triumvirate announce their candidacy they could prove to be very formidable opponents for the women.
Nevertheless, amidst all the political tumult of the past week, Britain looks set to usher in a new period of female dominance. For all the media fanfare surrounding Boris, he is severely handicapped by his public image of comedic scruffiness and the general volatility that surrounds him. That seemingly only leaves May and Leadsom in a two-horse race for the premiership, a race that would end in the first female appointed as PM since Margaret Thatcher in 1979.