“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” Richard II’s lament might seem to apply to Theresa May, as she contemplates a near future when the final Withdrawal Agreement has to be submitted to the Commons in two weeks time. There is small prospect that the Commons will support whatever May comes with, since her previous Withdrawal Agreement was defeated by a massive 230 votes. And Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29th. So May has vowed to reopen talks with Brussels, even though the EU has said, Nothing doing. This looks like crisis time.
I venture a contrary view. May has remained in office, which she adores, for 2 and a half years since she was appointed, not elected to the Leadership of the Conservative Party. She has successfully evaded the traps, complots, and votes of her enemies, who though numerous break down into disunited factions. She has achieved nothing save survival—as Talleyrand said of the French Revolution, “J’ai survecu.” May’s heraldic arms should bear a limpet couchant. But office is its own reward. Procrastination may be the thief of time, but it is the donor of time also. May is “an obstinate success.”
The immediate prospect is that May will be defeated in a fortnight, and that on the announcement of the vote Jeremy Corbyn will get to his feet and announce a vote of No Confidence in the Government. If it succeeds, the May Government is finished. If it fails—not by much, surely—there is nothing to stop Corbyn trying again, with a handful of votes deciding the outcome. This is not a betting event, but one that will continue to enthrall the audience. Britain always scores well on theater.