She has become a great survivor, defying political gravity for the last 18 months. Few believed Theresa May could maintain her position for long after losing her majority at the 2017 election and the PM has been regarded as on the brink ever since. The best political betting sites expect the saga will finally end in 2019, offering best odds of just 4/9.
Is her imminent demise cast in stone? Recent years have shown that there are no certainties in political betting anymore and May’s exit date is a case in point – several short-odds gambles have failed already. Everything revolves around the perennially unpredictable Brexit process. Here’s three ways it could pan out.
Scenario A – May delivers a smooth Brexit
Winning last week’s leadership contest left May fatally wounded with her MPs – opposed by more than half of Tory backbenchers – but secure for another year from another challenge. Enough time to deliver the Brexit she wants – irrespective of hardline Eurosceptics – if only she can convince enough MPs to vote for her deal.
Right now that looks unlikely – reflected by odds of 2/1 with William Hill that the Withdrawal Agreement passes through the Commons by 29/03/19 – but sentiment could change. May could yet secure some sort of game-changing legal concession regarding the Irish backstop. More likely, panic sets in among MPs as the threat of a no deal exit draws ever closer.
If the UK leaves, on time, without disruption to daily life, it could transform the narrative and public perceptions. May’s long lost ‘strong and stable’ tag would return and she would contrast favourably with the childish parliament that spent two years undermining her.
She would be free to choose her date of departure and some would even call for her to reverse plans to quit before the next election. The Tories are nowhere nearer rallying around an obvious successor and there is no appetite for another challenge. Remember, the earliest any challenge can be launched under party rules is December 2019. So if you think she’ll deliver on Brexit on time, 12/5 with Paddy Power about 2020 or later makes good sense.