Theresa May is facing an uphill battle to survive. Will she survive into the new year?
Here’s an interesting starter fact for you. The total number of Commons defeats inflicted on David Cameron’s two governments was nine. Six votes were lost when the coalition was in power, following three lost during Cameron’s brief period of majority-rule.
Since coming to power in July 2016, Theresa May has had a roller-coaster ride. Until after her ill-judged snap election, her government faced no Commons defeats, but since September there have been nine defeats. Most of them are of no real consequence, but the symbolism of the BBC’s striking “May heads to Brussels after EU vote loss” headline and similar can be instrumental in wounding the government.
Opposition Day defeats
Six of the nine defeats since September have been Opposition Day motions, which allow the opposition to debate issues that would otherwise not have been on the parliamentary agenda. Opposition Day government defeats have until recently been very rare, but May’s minority government, has seemed to allow Opposition Day motions to pass without a hitch, normalising us to them as they have no real consequence. The most stinging of these defeats was probably the first one back in September, which was an Opposition Day motion on increasing NHS workers’ pay. Strikingly, the DUP, May’s only allies in the Commons teamed up with the rest of the opposition to support the motion, as reported by the Independent.
A Humble Address for a Return
A further two defeats were inflicted via two humble addresses, which are a way for the Commons to effectively send a message to the Queen. This rare parliamentary procedure was brought out of the history books to extract key documents from the government, the first being Brexit impact reports in November, and the second being reports related to Universal Credit.
According to the Guardian, these types of votes are binding, and thus have more impact that Opposition Day defeats.
The Brexit Bill Amendment
On Wednesday evening the government was defeated on a knife-edge vote (309-305). The successful motion at Committee Stage to allow a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal is significant for two big reasons. Firstly, it could lead to a meaningful vote in parliament, which could shape upcoming Brexit negotiations, as well as the eventual post-Brexit arrangement.
Secondly, it is just another reminder of how Theresa May ended her prime ministership before it really started.
A full list of government defeats can be accessed here.