Mrs May battles on into 2018

Mrs May battles on into 2018
epa05913389 British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a statement outside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 18 April 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that she will call for a snap general election for 08 June. EPA/ANDY RAIN

Theresa May ends 2017 having successfully built her defences around Number 10 Downing Street and looks likely to soldier on for a number of years.

This time last year Mrs May had much to look forward to.

For much of the month of May this year, the PM was anticipating a landslide General Election victory.

Today, she peers into 2018 knowing she must grind out her Premiership virtually single-handedly.

She has no Commons majority, few real Cabinet loyalists and the fight of her life to stay alive.

And that’s before we factor in her battle with the European Commission and 27 EU leaders to land a Brexit deal she can sell to her own Conservative backbench.

It’s worth crediting Mrs May though.

Many predicted she’d have gone by Christmas.

Well, Christmas is here and Mrs May has dressed the tree in her country retreat Chequers.

Unlike England’s woeful cricket team facing a whitewash in the Ashes series in Australia, Mrs May has dug in.

Every week that passes makes her look less and less assailable at the Downing Street crease – no matter what the Opposition throws at her.

She’s becoming like her personal cricketing hero Sir Geoffrey Boycott.  Dull but difficult to budge.

Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs will fight for her to stay because she represents their best chance of leaving the EU.

The Democratic Unionist Party, propping up her Premiership with a “confidence and supply” arrangement in the Commons, would rather give up than see Jeremy Corbyn as PM.

And few – even on the Labour Party’s benches – can see any circumstances in which her government will collapse.

Here it’s worth including the usual caveats. The only truly predictability this year has been the unpredictability of political events. 

Mrs May’s year ahead is limbering up with a number of horrors. 

Protracted battles with the EU over Britain’s trading relationship is number one.  She wants to start negotiations in January. They won’t move until March. Precious time for giving business confidence is ebbing away.

Planning any type of legislation to move the agenda is proving hellishly difficult. Every Commons vote could bring her down. So there’s little appetite to make major changes.

Yet Mrs May knows she must show momentum if she’s to deliver a programme for change.

There could be a reshuffle of her top team early in the New Year. That’s what many close to her are advising. Expect big changes if she plays this card.

But wise heads in the whip’s office caution she doesn’t need more sacked ministers on her backbenches. 

Meanwhile there will be trouble from the red benches of the House of Lords where peers will want to flex their muscles over legislation.

The visit of US President Donald Trump is bound to cause Mrs May diplomatic nightmares.  Relations are about as bad as they have been between our two leaders for several years.

Public spending pressures are also coming to a head. 

The austerity measures of recent years are only now beginning to bite and Mrs May is under pressure on security, care homes for the elderly, the inefficiency of the NHS and public sector pay.

Don’t forget. There is no money. 

But don’t write her off.

Mrs May is clearly a determined woman. There are things going in her favour.

Globally the economy is growing more strongly than had been anticipated. The passage of time since the financial crash a decade ago is proving to be the great healer.

China’s growth has settled at a shade below 7%. It has avoided the crash landing many had feared.

President Trump’s Presidency hasn’t shattered the US economy. Under his administration, its growth has nudged above 2% and Wall Street is booming. The US stock market is up 30%.

Many Americans are loving it as wages rise and firms hire again. 

Ironically, the Eurozone economy is also confounding expectations.

Britain’s factories are reporting soaring orders as the cost of currency exchange is making it much cheaper to make things here.

The UK has its growth challenges, certainly. But the rising tide of global growth, coupled with the cheap pound is making many business leaders surprisingly confident about the post Brexit future. 

And the more that confidence flows, the more businesses will spend, buying equipment, hiring people and investing on research and development. 

The British Prime Minister is still in post. Not strong, but certainly stable.

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