For a while this summer it was possible to forget about the mess that British politics is in. Or rather, the mess the British government is in, after the Conservatives lost their majority at the general election in June. That was, you'll remember, the general election Theresa May called because she wanted to increase her majority. Brexit never goes on holiday, that's for sure, and the sense of impending doom has continued to hang over the country throughout the warm months. But the spectre of May and her dysfunctional government did slip to the back of the collective mind for a while, which was a relief.
Now, after a summer which involved singing the national anthem in Italian hotels, May is back to work and even saying she could lead the Conservatives into another general election. Hmm. Best wait to see what her fellow Conservatives think about that first.
There are sound reasons why you can get [2.72] on Brexit happening before May leaves Downing Street. One is that it's going to be complicated and costly for Britain to leave the EU and another is that May probably won't last much longer as PM. George Osborne said this week that May's leadership is like "a second-rate horror film" which reminds us of two things. Number one: Osborne is still sore about being sacked as chancellor by May. Number two: Tories are absolutely ruthless when they turn on each other and they will oust May as soon as it suits them.
For bettors, the staggering thing to remember amid all this is that, even though it's [13.5] on Betfair, a second general election this year is still a possibility.
Why May won't sack Boris Johnson
This week, we received confirmation that politicians from other countries think Boris Johnson has been a disaster as British Foreign Secretary. An article in the Times reports that European politicians who have to deal with Johnson consider him dishonest, unreliable and even dangerous. Apparently, even the Trump administration in America thinks Johnson is a joke.
May's decision to appoint Johnson as FS always seemed like a gamble. Was it a case of keeping her enemies close? Or was it about making Johnson take responsibility for Brexit, after he campaigned for Leave? Either way, it was a mistake and, in any normal circumstances, he would have been sacked for the errors he's made on the European and world stage over the past year-and-a-half.
But May can't sack Johnson because, if she does, he will rally his supporters and mount a leadership challenge. Johnson is [9.0] to be the next Conservative leader and this column's view has long been that he will never get the top job. However, May is wary of him and, in her weakened state, can't do anything that risks provoking him. So while May remains in office but not in power, Britain will be represented abroad by a man who's distrusted by many of his international counterparts.
Labour looking for a leader to win back Scotland
Kezia Dugdale resigned as leader of Scottish Labour this week, after a turbulent two years in charge north of the border. She took over in 2015, only three months after Labour had been reduced to one MP at that year's general election, then watched the party slip into third place at the following year's Scottish elections.
Some commentators say Dugdale, who was a critic of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, jumped before she was pushed. But she leaves Scottish Labour in better shape then she inherited it, due to the party's performance in June's general election. Several SNP seats could, on a small swing, go to Labour at the next election. And Scottish independence, of which Dugdale is a fierce opponent, looks less likely now than it has done for many years, with a referendum on the matter before 2019 out to [12.0].