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UK Politics: Government is close to collapse so back a 2018 election

A general election in 2018 looks increasingly likely
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It didn't look like it could get any worse but, after criticism from everyone from Donald Trump to Arelene Foster, Theresa May has had the kind of week that makes Max Liu wonder if her government might soon collapse...

"The upshot of Theresa May's problems is that [3.6] on a general election in 2018 looks an absolute steal."

What a terrible week for Theresa May. I could have started this column with that line on any Sunday in the past six months. However, in the past seven days the British Prime Minister has been besieged by problems from all sides.

On Wednesday, May rightly stood up to Donald Trump, after he retweeted Islamophobic videos from a British fascist group, only to be rebuked by Trump on Twitter. Well, that's not so bad, is it? Every sane person loathes Trump, so this spat won't damage May's credibility with British voters. Ok, except that Britain, as it hurtles blindly towards Brexit, needs to keep America on side. And May is also, rightly, under fire for refusing to cancel Trump's state visit to the UK.

A YouGov poll this week showed 55% support for cancelling Trump's state visit. According to today's Times, though, Trump could be coming to London on February 26. But will May still be in Downing Street then? After all, the DUP's threat this week to withdraw its support from the Conservatives' minority government could prove fatal. And close May ally Damian Green is under fire again, as the police have reignited allegations about porn on his office computer.

To round off May's terrible week, the government's social mobility adviser Alan Milburn and his team quit on Saturday night, claiming the PM had failed to build the "fairer Britain" she talked about last year.

DUP threat and Green sleaze leaves May looking vulnerable

The Irish border is proving to be an enormous obstacle in the Brexit negotiations. The Irish government in Dublin is demanding assurances that there will be no return to a hard border before Brexit negotiations can progress to discuss trade. However, DUP leader Arlene Foster has told May that her party will not support the Westminster government if it agrees different Brexit terms for Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK.

Green, meanwhile, is facing calls to resign again after police said this week that they found thousands of pornographic images on his office computer. Green is already in trouble over allegations that he sexually harassed a young Conservative activist but Brexit secretary David Davis is offering support, saying he will quit if Green is forced to resign. Odd that Davis, a lifelong Brexiteer who's leading Britain's negotiations in Brussels, is prepared to walk away. Or perhaps he's looking for a way out of the Brexit nightmare which he helped to create.

The upshot for bettors is that [3.6] on a general election in 2018 looks an absolute steal. May is in jeopardy and the withdrawal of DUP support and/or Green's resignation could spell the end for her government. The resignation of Milburn and his colleagues, meanwhile, is another blow to morale and it's not impossible that May will quit. She's promised to stay in Downing Street for as long as her party wishes but, let's remember, she went back on her word in April and called a general election that she had previously ruled out. How she must now wish she'd stuck to her guns on that.

Labour start to open up commanding poll lead

On the opposite side of Parliament, not everything is rosy in the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn still has his critics, not least Tony Blair who two weeks ago said Labour should be 20 points ahead in the polls.

In a way, Blair is right, as the Conservatives are in unprecedented turmoil and you'd expect Labour to be more than two points ahead - as most polls have indicated over the past few months. However, Blair is overlooking the astonishing progress Corbyn's Labour have made in 2017, from being labelled the weakest opposition in history to looking like a government in waiting.

Perhaps Blair will be more impressed by the Survation poll that last night put Labour eight points ahead of the Conservatives. On Betfair, Corbyn's Labour are in to [1.94] to win the next election and I wouldn't argue with that.

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