May faces party anger, turmoil as she tries to 'get on with job'

Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May forms her cabinet after a bruising election last week that wiped out her majority in the UK parliament.
Mrs May has given former adversary Michael Gove a role in her Cabinet, after firing him last year. After last Thursday's election result, she was unable to carry out wholesale Cabinet changes mooted before the election. British PM Theresa May (centre
British PM Theresa May (centre, left) at the first Cabinet meeting of her new team at 10, Downing Street, in London yesterday. Two potential leadership rivals, Mr Boris Johnson and Mr David Davis, pledged their loyalty to her, saying it is the wrong time for a change at the helm.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mrs May has given former adversary Michael Gove a role in her Cabinet, after firing him last year. After last Thursday's election result, she was unable to carry out wholesale Cabinet changes mooted before the election. British PM Theresa May (centre
Mrs May has given former adversary Michael Gove a role in her Cabinet, after firing him last year. After last Thursday's election result, she was unable to carry out wholesale Cabinet changes mooted before the election. PHOTO: REUTERS

Uncertainty surrounds British PM's govt with delay of Queen's speech, Brexit plans in disarray

LONDON • In a first sign of the difficulty British Prime Minister Theresa May is facing as she tries to "get on with the job" after a disastrous election, the Queen's Speech to Parliament next week setting out the government's programme will be delayed.

Her Conservative Party also looks headed for a fresh civil war over Europe as Mrs May prepared to face angry Conservative lawmakers who could hasten the end of her premiership. The botched campaign opened a new front in the Tories' decades-long internal conflict over Britain's membership in the European Union.

Some of Mrs May's most senior ministers are plotting to soften her approach to leaving the bloc, potentially keeping the country in the single market and Customs union. By contrast, hardline Brexit supporters are determined to force through Mrs May's plans for a clean break.

Two potential leadership rivals, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis, pledged their loyalty to Mrs May, saying it is the wrong time for a change at the helm or another general election.

The Prime Minister was scheduled to chair a meeting of her new Cabinet before hearing first-hand the anger of Tory MPs - called the 1922 Committee - who blame her for the catastrophic election campaign that cost the party its parliamentary majority.

However, despite the anger, Mrs May's job appears safe, for now.

"I don't detect any great appetite among my colleagues for presenting the public with a massive additional dose of uncertainty by getting involved in a self-indulgent Conservative Party internal election campaign," Mr Graham Brady, the 1922 Committee chairman, told BBC TV.

The atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding the May government was heightened when her spokesman James Slack told reporters that Queen Elizabeth II's speech to Parliament setting out the government programme might be moved from the planned date of June 19. The BBC said the speech is expected to be delayed a few days.

This could also mean talks with the EU might not begin on June 19 as expected.

The sterling sank to a seven-month low against the euro yesterday as investors worried about the political uncertainty.

In a round of broadcast interviews yesterday, Mr Davis, a leading euro-sceptic, stuck by Mrs May's original plan for leaving the single market in return for reclaiming control of borders and laws.

"The reason for leaving the single market is not particularly because we want to, but because the single market requires the free movement of people," he told LBC radio. He dismissed questions over Mrs May's future as "unbelievably self-indulgent" and vowed to help her deliver the best Brexit deal for Britain.

However, Mr George Osborne, a former finance minister who is now editor of London's Evening Standard newspaper, said she appeared a "dead woman walking".

Mrs May's plans have been thrown into chaos along with Britain's entire political landscape by last Thursday's vote. She was unable to carry out wholesale Cabinet changes that had been mooted before the election, with most ministers staying in the same jobs. She even gave her former adversary Michael Gove a role in her Cabinet, after firing him last year.

The appointment of passionate pro-European Damian Green as her new deputy is being taken as a sign that she wants to keep anti-Brexit lawmakers on her side.

She will meet Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster in London today in the hope of finalising a deal that will allow her to pass laws in Parliament and keep her party in power. The DUP's 10 seats make up for her party's nine-seat shortfall of a majority.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

VIDEO: PM May forms Cabinet amid turmoil. str.sg/4bQs

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2017, with the headline 'May faces party anger, turmoil as she tries to 'get on with job''. Print Edition | Subscribe