Sending MPs on early holiday could make all the difference for May

Few people have the power to bring forward their summer holiday. But for Theresa May, bringing forward the summer recess could make all the difference. So when rumours circulated that the break could begin as early as this Thursday they were immediately believed. Far more importantly, No 10 did not deny them.

The prime minister’s grip on the premiership has been precarious since she announced the Chequers compromise a week and a half ago but, however unhappy hardline Tories have been with her softer Brexit proposals, they have not yet been able to muster the 48 MPs who are willing to send in letters to the chair of the backbench 1922 committee to hold a vote of no confidence in her.

While the mood in her party remains so febrile, there is little point keeping MPs at a hot and sticky Westminster. Better for them to go on holiday until September and reflect on the opinion polls, some of which have shown Labour taking the lead as Conservative divisions have come to the fore.

May has already displayed a remarkable capacity for resilience in the toughest period of her premiership since the general election. Donald Trump may have insulted her Brexit strategy in an interview with the Sun, but he has since apologised and upheld the “most special of relationships”. And, crucially, the visit of the world’s most unpredictable leader to the UK is over.

Remainers have withdrawn their attempt to force the UK to stay in the EU’s customs union and are now mobilised in anger against the prime minister’s most dangerous threat, the European Research Group. David Davis has resigned in protest at her Brexit strategy but is making clear that he does not want May to fall, however much he may disagree with her proposed negotiating approach.

There are still threats though. The most obvious is Boris Johnson. The former foreign secretary has been a surprisingly slight figure since his resignation. His first Daily Telegraph column, a discussion of “global Britain”, was a lightweight disappointment.

But there is still an expectation that he will seek to make a resignation statement to the Commons, and a belief that he could yet inflame a rebellion against the prime minister should he so wish. Another reason to bring forward the end of term.

Getting to the holidays also gives May the chance to make progress in negotiations with the European Union, which begin in earnest when new Brexit secretary Dominic Raab visits Brussels on Thursday. It offers the prime minister time to reset the debate. The finishing line is in sight, although May has not yet quite crossed it.


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