First Week on the job
Yesterday marked the end of Theresa May’s first week as Prime Minister. After her rushed appointment last Wednesday, the new Prime Minister has already made some big decisions that will define her tenure.
The brutal reshuffle saw much of the Cameron-Osbourne Etonian era removed swiftly from government. Major players such as former Justice Secretary Michael Gove and former Chancellor George Osbourne have been expelled to the back benches. Her dislike for some of her former colleagues showed true, as did her commitment to Brexit. The Prime Minister can certainly been praised for placing key figures who backed ‘Leave’ in the ministerial posts regarding foreign affairs, (Boris Johnson) international trade (Liam Fox) , and the ‘Brexit Secretary’ (David Davis).
Moreover, she has begun the healing process within the Conservative Party with her rhetoric that all of her cabinet colleagues must make Brexit a success, and that the Conservatives cannot continue to be defined by views on Europe. Her promotion of fresh blood to the top, such as Amber Rudd as Home Secretary and Liz Truss as Justice Secretary, will refresh the image of the Tories, helping them move towards the centre-ground.
There is only one concern, being that a number of high-profile Tory figures now find themselves on the backbenches, aggrieved and with lots of time. For a Prime Minister with such a small majority, her new Whip (Gavin Williamson) will be crucial.
On calling a General Election
Despite the initial storm after her appointment, it is becoming increasingly clear that Theresa May will not call an election. Despite the tempting opportunity with the Labour Party in turmoil, it appears she would rather let them tear themselves apart while the Conservatives get on with governing until 2020.
The first major test of her tenure was the vote to renew Trident. During the debate, she performed strongly, and notably stated that she would be prepared to use a nuclear strike if necessary. MPs backed the notion to renew the missile system overwhelmingly - including over one hundred Labour MPs.
One must be cautious when attributing this to May’s leadership. It was always inevitable that the vote would pass, whoever the leader of the Conservative Party. Nevertheless, a strong start will give May confidence in the weeks to come. Although, one imagines that the majority of her new legislative programme will be announced, and follow the Conservative Party Conference at the start of October.
Commitment to Brexit
Theresa May’s cabinet appointments in Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox demonstrate her commitment to the referendum result. The balance in the cabinet will satisfy leavers who feared the Brexit would be slimmed down and shows that she will not backtrack. She has made it very clear that she won’t call for a second referendum because “Brexit means Brexit”.
The collective talent of Fox and Davis who will handle much of the negotiation with Europe, will prove formidable in the coming years. In this instance, May has chosen wisely.
Heathrow and HS2
The debate over airport expansion will be a matter for May’s government to finally put to bed. The reality is – they’ll mess it up. A number of prominent figures in her government, including May herself and new Transport Secretary Chris Grayling have expressed concern towards a third runway at Heathrow. The simple answer, which seemingly eludes the government, is build a new runway at Heathrow and Gatwick.
Both of the South’s busiest airports are in need of expansion. Gatwick is near breaking point and a second runway would provide better competition with Heathrow. Equally, Heathrow’s new runway could reinstate it as the world’s busiest airport and so the huge economic benefits could be received from both Gatwick and Heathrow.
The likelihood is of course we will only build one, and will eventually add the other runway in around 25 years. May’s government has a chance to break with the past of inefficient planning ahead from British Government’s, but she’ll likely miss.
With regards to HS2, Grayling made clear that he has no plan to cancel it and will push ahead with the previous plans. This is, as HS2 has always been, a mistake. The sentiment behind the idea is promising: we should rebalance the economy away from London with more investment in the Northern cities of Manchester and Liverpool. However, by the time it reaches completion, the train will already be out of date with developing technology.
Prime Minister’s Questions
Her predecessor, David Cameron, was famous for his flashy, witty performances at PMQs. His style always was to try to undermine the opposition leader with facts and jokes, deflecting the more important questions if they were uncomfortable.
Of course Cameron and May are two entirely different politicians. Cameron was a new age, Blair era modern politician. Theresa May is more reserved, but no less strong. Yesterday, in PMQ’S she performed
The Conservatives may have found something special in Theresa May. The future for them is most certainly bright. After a strong first week in office, she looks like she will deliver on her promises of Brexit. Strong cabinet appointments have refreshed the face of the Party. In yesterday’s YouGov Poll, the Conservatives had an 11 point lead. Seemingly, May is settling well into Downing Street.
More articles by this commentator