Asked if she would lead the Conservative Party into the next General Election Theresa May said yes. Of course she did. What else could she say? It is one of those non-story stories. Ben Wright, the sharp and experienced BBC journalist, asked the Prime Minister a question to which he knew the answer. Her answer, a sharpening up on her previous responses to similar questions and which is a sign of her growing confidence, provided the opportunity for a series of ‘coor-crikey’ follow-up stories. Anonymous backbenchers and former Ministers were quoted extensively. It all served to fill up space in what is still a quiet period at the end of the holiday season.
Of course it is not impossible for the country to change Prime Ministers at vital moments. We swapped Asquith for Lloyd George in the First World War, Chamberlain for Churchill in the Second, and Thatcher for Major in the First Gulf War. It is quite possible too that the Government will have some energy for non-Brexit work. In 1944, for example, while the Government and the country were totally absorbed with the War, RA Butler introduced a hugely significant and far reaching piece of education reform. Government’s and Prime Ministers can do all sorts of unlikely things. Politics is not predictable and unforeseen events can often change the course of history, but Brexit is the headline issue of this Parliament. It is the known known.
The Brexit Deal when it comes, as come it will, and all the arrangements necessary to take us out of the European Union, will require Parliamentary approval. However one looks at the composition of the Commons and the Lords it is difficult to see how the Government will push through the necessary legislation to make Brexit possible unscathed. MPs and Peers can pay lip service to the general goal of Brexit whilst causing havoc on the specific legislative details. The Repeal Bill legislation hangs over Ministers and Parliament like a great black cloud. Its passage will drain energy and good will. It will consume vast amounts of time and strain relationships among Parliamentary colleagues. In the Lords, where the Conservatives are in a minority, whole swathes of Peers are likely to cause trouble for the Government.
Parliament will then need to approve the Brexit Deal. It is inconceivable it should not be asked to approve such an important agreement. There is an increasingly clear understanding that a Brexit Deal General Election will be necessary to give the Government the mandate it needs to drive approval of the Deal through Parliament. Mrs May, as the Prime Minister who led the negotiations clearly should be the one to take the Deal to the country. The 2019 Brexit Deal General Election is on its way.