The summer recess is called the “silly season” as all sorts of theories and fantasies replace news stories. Readers took the news that Prime Minister Theresa May was going to resign in 2019 after Brexiting as credible, but three days later, during a trip to Japan, PM May announced she aspired to lead the Conservative Party into the 2022 election. Party pandemonium erupted. The 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs and at least 10 MPs, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, have come out in her favour and the conservative mainstream media have rallied to support her. Conversely, other MPs and previous Tory campaigners such as former PM David Cameron’s director of communications, Sir Craig Oliver; former party chairman Grant Shapps; and former Chancellor George Osborne have derided the possibility of May remaining in No. 10 until 2022.
A snap leadership contest is not ruled out. A spate of negative narratives was recently published against Boris Johnson, which may suggest he cooked up some support over the summer. Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, Secretary of State for International Development, have been intensifying development, trade and security in Nigeria this week. Both May and Johnson have expressed their support for each other.
What unites all Tories is the dread of another general election and giving No 10 to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The most recent voting intention poll put Corbyn one notch ahead of May. With 18-24-year-olds, the Labour is 50% ahead as the Tories struggle to involve young conservatives. Ed West, historian, and Stephen Canning Conservative County Councillor believe home ownership is the key to return millennial voters to the Tory fold. But can government get the proposition right to connect with the young, who have felt left off the housing ladder?
In a recent attempt to attract young Conservatives, an independent organisation called Activate.UK was formed, hoping to engage young people in right-of-centre politics. The soft launch was premature and backfired. Activate was mocked and accused of being a Tory cut-and-paste version of Labour’s activist wing, Momentum. Activate has published a statement on its website, claiming that “The media coverage received was neither accurate, nor evidence based.” Activate’s ideas for Britain’s global role in the world, a home-owning democracy, enhanced social mobility and an ethical economy are worthy, if idealistic. Perhaps the media will give them and other grassroots movements a second chance to engage and drive new members towards Conservative politics.
With Parliament set to resume this week, Brexit is still at the heart of the debate, although little progress has been made with Brussels. Their chief negotiator, Michel Barnier still insists on resolving the post-Brexit rights of EU citizens living/working in the UK; how the Northern Irish border will operate; and the amount the UK owes to Brussels as a divorce settlement before bona fide trade talks can begin. So actually, in spite of the paperwork UK has submitted and the three rounds of talks so far, to the layman it looks quite like what it did two months ago.