How did they do? Leaders end of term reports

PUBLISHED: 15:53 19 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:22 20 July 2018

Prime minister Theresa May
Photo: PA / Matt Cardy

Prime minister Theresa May Photo: PA / Matt Cardy

PA Wire/PA Images

School is out. And the reports on each party are due.

Let’s start with the Liberal Democrats. Sir Vince Cable’s re-election was a welcome return to politics for a true Westminster heavyweight.

He had to flip flop a bit on Brexit – initially he had said the result should be honoured but now backs the party’s full opposition to exiting the European Union – but Sir Vince was deemed the right choice for leader.

He is a safe pair of hands. But is he too safe?

The Lib Dems failed to make a breakthrough at the general election. They were hopeful of capitalising on the Remain vote but it didn’t transpire.

There were two reasons for that. The first was Tim Farron. A nice chap but not a political leader – and he kept saying odd things about homosexuals.

The second was a slice of pure bad luck. Many Remainers wrongly believed a vote for Corbyn’s Labour was an anti-Brexit vote. How wrong they were ... but I’ll get on to that.

The biggest question about the Lib Dems during the past year is ‘what have they actually done’? Yes they have been very vocal on Brexit. In fact their Brexit spokesman Tom Brake has probably been busier than the leader.

But what else? There have been the tired, old Lib Dem favourites of proportional representation and cannabis legalisation but the party has not really broken through on anything else.

I don’t think it is a case of must try harder though. They just need to refocus and start again.

Labour has had a shocker. With a government that has often been engulfed in turmoils of their own doing, the opposition have consistently missed open goals.

Jeremy Corbyn often mocks the Tories for their infighting but his Labour party has been no better. The ongoing row about anti-Semitism continues to divide which is frankly outrageous. It is an issue that should not have even been a talking point and will go on damaging Labour.

And they have confused many people with their ever-moving Brexit stance. The front bench never appear to be on the same page.

After the election Jeremy Corbyn was flying high. But he did not win. And if he could not win against this Conservative Party he never will. That was his chance and since then he has blown it.

He has become a Marmite figure within his own party – only this week one of his MPs resigned and another verbally attacked him inside parliament. And yet he also commands utter, unswerving loyalty from those who think he is the answer to Britain’s problems.

But the polls suggest the public is going off Mr Corbyn.

His plan to change Labour is getting closer to completion however. The New Labour days of sharp suits, business-friendly policies and acute awareness of how to play the media seem a million years ago now. This is no longer the natural home of Tony Blair.

History tells us that is unlikely to play out well for Mr Corbyn with the public though. Britain has consistently voted for parties and leaders rooted in the centre ground. His sharp shift to the left is unlikely to succeed in the shape of him becoming prime minister. But does he really want the keys to Number 10? Or is he more concerned with passing a left-wing legacy on to his successor?

The battle for the heart of the Labour party continues but it looks very much like Mr Corbyn is going to win.

And what to say about Theresa May? Well she is certainly stoic. She has spent all year fighting – on numerous fronts. Up until she finally revealed her Chequers plan she had just about kept both Remainers and Leavers inside her cabinet happy. Now that is over and David Davis and Boris Johnson have left the government there is the promise of calmer days ahead.

But back bench MPs from both sides of the Brexit debate will have other ideas. The Remainers are more easily placated – the country did vote to leave the EU after all – but Jacob Rees-Mogg and the European Research Group pose a serious threat. Only this week their demands had the government in a panic and they have the numbers to spark a leadership contest.

For now though she survives. And who would bet against her seeing the country over the Brexit finish line?

She will be delighted about the break from the rough and tumble of day-to-day Westminster politics.

But she will also be aware that plots often build in the long, hot weeks of summer recess.

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