Theresa May has lost the power of steering public opinion, her government, and her party. The proof was her most inconsequential reshuffle on Monday, which was stirring for some political careers but hardly shaking in political terms.
In fact, the opposition was the one to make the shaking headlines on Monday.
On Monday, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC that “no Brexit is preferable to no deal,”; on the other end of the spectrum, Nigel Farage said that a no-deal outcome “would hurt Europe far more than it would hurt us.” One might think that not a day has passed since the aftermath of the UK’s referendum result. The same talking points make the news. And the British government has little if anything of relevance to say to remould the debate.
Since Theresa May saw her parliamentary majority shrink in June, she has been unable to rule. On Monday, Theresa May was reshuffling her government in a show that stirred rather than shacked public opinion. All the known faces remain in place, with roughly the same balance between soft and hard Brexiteers.
Stirred not Shaken
The reshuffle was triggered by the need for Theresa May to replace her First Secretary of State and de facto deputy Damien Green, who resigned after the culmination of a Cabinet Office investigation into his conduct. He was accused of using his parliamentary computer to download pornography, many years ago.
But, the weak Prime Minister kept changes to a minimum. The only minister to leave was Justine Greening, because May wanted to take her education portfolio and make her a work and pensions secretary. That was the highlight of the evening, resulting on the Remain campaigner Damian Hinds replacing her. There is also Karen Bradley, who replaces the current Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, who resigned for health reasons. Other than that, Boris Johnson and David Davies keep their jobs, along with all significant Brexiteers.
There were more bold changes in the apparatus of the Conservative party, with Brandon Lewis becoming the Chairman of the Conservative Party, replacing Patrick McLoughlin, who was on the jobs since the reign supreme of Margaret Thatcher. Brandon campaigned to remain in the EU.
Divided as ever
While the Conservative party remains divided between soft and hard Brexiteers, Scotland’s first minister told BBC Radio that Brexit is a “horror show,” demanding membership of the Single Market.
“No deal is unthinkable. Let me be absolutely clear, no Brexit is preferable to no deal,” Sturgeon said. She said that a Brexit may bring back to the table the prospect of an independence referendum.
The Liberals want their own referendum, this time to approve or (hopefully) reject Brexit.
Meanwhile, Labour is as divided as the government.
Nigel Farage stands his ground, which resonates with the line of hard Conservative Brexiteers. From Brussels, the former UKIP leader told the BBC that the UK has given up too much in the first round of negotiations, and it was time Michel Barnier made “some concessions” or British businesses would want to walk away from a deal. He said he wanted a deal on services.
Meanwhile, there is no political interpretation for May’s initiative. The UK remains as divided as ever. And the stirring but hardly shacking reshuffle underscored the fact that May is a master of balances, but is not making decision she can postpone. And the clock is ticking.