Prime Minister Theresa May has delayed the House of Commons vote on the bill for the Brexit withdrawal from the European Union until the third week of January. She will go back to the European Commission this week to find some kind of compromise that will placate a large number of MPs that oppose the deal as it stands. It is thought this will surround the “Backstop” agreement which legislates the Irish border.
In the event that the House votes down the bill, a leadership contest will likely be sprung against the PM. It might even happen before then, so it’s worthwhile to take a deeper look at the pickings we have going into this dramatic quagmire. This will be from a libertarian perspective and, assuming that all prime ministers are bad by definition, I am looking at who would be the least bad, considering the circumstances.
The first candidates we have to rule out immediately are Remainers. Clearly, the decision to elect a Remainer to negotiate the exit from the EU was ill-fated. May was unable to negotiate from a position of strength as her heart was never truly in it. A good argument: we have to have some compromise on it to reflect the will of the large minority of Remainers. This is true, but there are plenty of other interested parties that reflect the Remain side, including the EU. It doesn’t make sense to have the leader split in two — let the leader be bold, and the rest cut them down.
So, in reverse order of preference:
Please, God no
This means that we can knock off Home Secretary Sajid Javid. Despite his liberal credentials (he’s a Thatcherite and Randian), he hasn’t budged on his views on Brexit. Even if the case is that he’d negotiate a better deal, and everything turns out fine, he’s a neocon. There are bigger things here to consider. Let’s try not to start World War III before the next general election, hey? Let alone the fact he’s squishy on the EU.
Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, too, must be struck out of contention straight away, as she is still a Remainer. There is nothing to back her to mitigate that, so it would just be Theresa May 2.0. Keep her as far away from the Cabinet as possible.
Still not a good idea
Then we can look at halfway-housers and fence-sitters, who must also be avoided. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Jeremy Hunt, was a Remain voter but turned around in 2017 in response to the EU’s negotiation tactics. This guy has been loitering around for ages, and I think he’s just an opportunist.
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, unfortunately, is also untrustworthy, staying on in the Cabinet despite the fact May’s deal stands against everything he campaigned against as a Leaver.
Dark horse Penny Morduant hasn’t made a strong stance against May’s deal either.
This is a little better
Now we’re left with strong Leavers and can begin looking into their stances in more detail.
The most obvious and popular candidate for Tory leadership is former Foreign Secretary and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. There was a kind of inevitability to Johnson becoming PM for a while until the EU referendum result came out and he promptly ruled out a leadership challenge. But the recent disasters have brought the lovable toff off the backbench to reemerge as the favorite for PM before the year’s end.
He’s a staunch Brexiteer, and one of the biggest figures that called for a referendum in the first place. He’s refused to rule out a leadership challenge, whilst accepting responsibility for the mess we’ve got ourselves into. Speaking purely in terms of delivering a proper Brexit whilst holding some semblance of a government together, Johnson is probably the strongest.
For my money though, he’s second only to Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is a true classical liberal. Rees-Mogg made the best case for Brexit, and can probably operate with more decorum. The only issue is that Rees-Mogg is an almost permanent backbencher and a Marmite figure. Although extremely popular with hard Brexiteers, he seems to annoy a lot of people.
The next tier down where the candidates are less present, but fairly strong: Dominic Raab and Esther McVey. Raab is the former Minister for Brexit who resigned in protest at how the negotiations went. His instincts are good but he’s young. McVey is the former television presenter and fairly popular Leave voter who has made a fairly early move.
The Venezuela Option
Failing that, we trigger a general election and risk the leadership of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. Let’s say he actually shocks the world and delivers a proper Brexit, and promptly nationalizes the toothpaste industry; we might say we’ve got off easy. Stranger things have happened.
Let’s see who tops the podium.
- Jacob Rees-Mogg
- Boris Johnson
- Dominic Raab
Now that this has been established, the most likely scenario is that we’ll get someone that literally everybody hates.