UK Politics: Cabinet of chaos makes 2018 election a good bet

Theresa May, pictured here with Emmanuel Macron, looks increasingly vulnerable
Theresa May looks like she's had enough!

For the second week in a row, Theresa May has lost a minister. With the cabinet in disarray and allegations mounting up against senior figures, Max Liu believes it won't be long before voters have the chance boot out this zombie government.

"At present, the timing of the next election offers us the best odds and 3.711/4 on a general election in 2018 cries out to be backed."

I said last week that one more scandal could spell the end for Theresa May. This week the government was hit with another scandal, albeit a bizarre one that was already rumbling last weekend. Priti Patel's departure for holding secret meetings with the Israeli government was dressed up as a resignation but was obviously a sacking. It means May has lost two cabinet ministers in consecutive weeks. With Boris Johnson and Damian Green facing big questions about their conduct, will the government complete an unwanted hat-trick over the next seven days?

Even if the cabinet doesn't lose anyone this week, it's clear that May's government is in peril and it's fair to wonder, once again, how long she can stay in number ten. She looks as vulnerable as an English night watchman facing Australia's bowlers, with no ambitions beyond short-term survival. A government cannot keep haemorrhaging ministers and it's a surprise that Betfair's Next Cabinet Member to Leave market isn't a hotbed of activity.

May's government looks a lot like John Major's Conservative government of the mid-1990s, although older readers might be reminded of James Callaghan's Labour government of the late 1970s. Both those governments suffered inevitable defeats at the next general elections and their parties remained in opposition for 13 and 18 years respectively.

Labour are pulling away in the next general election betting, narrowing to 1.8910/11 to win most seats, while the Tories have drifted to 2.1211/10. A bet on a Labour majority is also starting to look appealing. 136297311

But it's the timing of the next election that offers us the best odds and 3.711/4 on a general election in 2018 stands out. If May's goes there will be a Tory leadership contest, as a straightforward coronation when the party is deeply divided on Brexit looks impossible.

The new Tory leader will then have to go to the country for a third general election in three years. Voters might be suffering from election fatigue but there's no way they'd tolerate an unelected PM at the head of a minority government. Brexit would be put on hold, for the duration of the election at least which is why May is 1.364/11 to leave Downing Street before Britain leaves the EU.

If Green goes May could follow

The key to May's short term political future could be her ally Damian Green. May's de facto deputy PM has been accused of sexual harassment by a Tory activist and, this weekend, Sir Paul Stephenson, who was Britain's most senior police officer from 2009 to 2011, confirmed that pornography was found on Green's office computer.

Green is trying to weather the storm but the allegations keep coming back and it feels like there's more to come on this one. Green's departure could precipitate May's downfall.

Corbyn tells May to sack Johnson

While Green is NSFW, there was further proof this week - not that more were needed - that Boris Johnson is not fit for office. The Foreign Secretary, who's on the drift at 10.519/2 in the next Conservative leader market, plumbed new depths with his diplomatic blunder in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British mother imprisoned in Iran, and his subsequent refusal to apologise.

Now Jeremy Corbyn is calling for the PM to sack her Foreign Secretary. Under normal circumstances, May wouldn't need any encouragement, as Johnson's charge sheet is longer than one of his rambling sentences. The Labour leader accuses Johnson of "embarrassing and undermining our country with his incompetence and colonial throwback views and putting our citizens at risk... It's time for him to go."

Sacking of foreign secretaries is fairly rare and you have to go back to Robin Cook whom Tony Blair demoted in 2001, for the last time one was removed against his will. But Johnson is extraordinarily bad at his job and has long been a joke that's not funny anymore. Unfortunately, May fears sacking him would spark a coup from her party's Brexiteers, so he remains in place. Pathetic.

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