The Next PM

As Theresa May's premiership gets very close to the end, we talk about who and what might be coming next. Can her successor re-establish the authority she has lost? Can anyone govern in this parliament or do we need a general election? Is the age of long-serving prime ministers also coming to an end? Plus we discuss what lessons can be drawn from the recent election in Australia: what does it tell us about the politics of climate change? With Helen Thompson and Chris Brooke.


Talking Points:


Theresa May’s prime ministership is nearing its last week. She has no authority left.

  • Is it about her and her mismanagement, or has something happened to the office?
  • Will her successor have any more luck? (It seems unlikely)
  • It doesn’t seem like there was any realistic scenario in which May could have peeled off significant numbers of Labour MP’s.
  • But the fight over the people’s vote within Labour could have turned out differently. If the leadership had succumbed, Labour MP’s in Leave constituencies might have done something different.


October will be a month of high drama: both the Brexit deadline and the party conferences.

  • Also the three options will look more like two: everyone has to take no deal seriously at that point.
  • Could there be a general election in the autumn?


If Labour doesn’t want to define itself according to Brexit, is there a plausible case for the Lib Dems to become the opposition?

  • A revival of the Lib Dems hurts the Conservatives much more than Labour.
  • Both main parties have a clear interest in having both Remain and Leave voters in their party. The problem is it means that neither of them can deliver Brexit.


The long premierships of Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and Tony Blair are historical exceptions.

  • A lot of what’s going on is the absence of a parliamentary majority: that’s the norm in British politics.
  • But on the Conservative side, it’s also about the particular way they elect a leader.
  • In parliamentary politics there’s a pressure towards a soft Brexit, but the Conservative leadership is in the hands of the members. We don’t know that much about them, but everyone seems to think that the membership is very Brexity. That sets up the instability.
  • There are also substantive issues that have historically driven instability in UK politics: difficult questions about the UK’s relationship with the rest of the world, and difficult questions about the UK as a multi-national state.


Did Australia just have a Brexit moment? Or is this something more familiar?

  • There are parallels to the Major/Kinnock election in 1992.
  • But there’s also the risk that the takeaway will be that going big on climate change is not a great strategy.


Mentioned in this Episode:


Further Learning:


And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: acast.com/privacy