21:55 GMT +319 January 2020
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    UK Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed a delay of the crucial vote on the Brexit agreement with the EU. During a speech in the House of Commons, the prime minister conceded that the deal would be rejected with a significant margin.

    Radio Sputnik discussed the vote delay with Simon Tormey, a professor of politics and head of the School of Social and Political Sciences at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney.

    Simon Tormey: Well, I think there is quite a lot of the story still to run. I mean you got to think this is really an argument within the Conservative Party. So what Mrs May is hoping to do is to just alter a little bit of the wording around the backstop, which is the very important detail keeping the European Union on board.

    So, what she is trying to do is to go around the European Union leaders and firm up her view of how this deal is going to go forward. And then she can convince these hard Brexit elements within her own party that she has done the things that are needed in order to guarantee their support. But I mean that is a very long shot, as we know.

    READ MORE: Tories Launch No Confidence Vote in Theresa May's Leadership Amid Brexit Chaos

    Sputnik: From a pragmatic point of view it doesn't look as though pragmatism from a majority of the leaving MPs. I don't think it is really going to wash much, albeit it probably it makes sense in terms of your scenario. I mean, do you really feel that she is going to be able to overturn something like an 85-90 percent feedback of this particular Brexit deal?

    Simon Tormey: No, it has got absolutely no chance of getting through. I think, as we know, the best skill Theresa May has got is actually kicking a can down the road. She likes being prime minister, she has grown in the job; she is not ready to give up. And really she has looked at all the different options available to her and kicking the can down the road is the obvious solution to keep her in power for another couple of days or weeks or whatever it is going to be.

    So this is really a kind of very futile gesture. It is very frustrating not only for her own party but also for the House of Parliament. I mean the contempt which people showed for her leadership in the House of Parliament really cannot be described, as you know. And then, of course, the poor British people are in an absolute sort of paroxysms, frustration, and anger — they are all fed up.

    But Mrs May has got this instinct for survival. And that's what really this gesture is about: it is buying her a little bit more time, for what end nobody can really divine, but that is her time at the moment.

    READ MORE: Analyst on May's Brexit Plan: Isn't at All Unlikely That UK Is Going to Break Up

    Sputnik: I suppose anyone who knows Mrs May, however, knows she isn't a quitter, you've mentioned that. And even in the most perilous of circumstances, which we are going through — this long and tired Brexit process — I suppose, she has proven that she is very much a dogged leader, hasn't she?

    Simon Tormey: Yes, she is a very dogged leader, but at the same time I think there is a certain air of futility about all of this. I mean it is not actually leading anywhere with any kind of hope or confidence that it is actually going to resolve this political crisis. So what is particularly frustrating is of course when you are in a very acute political crisis like this, actually you want to lance the boil.

    You know the boil is getting bigger and bigger here. And the consequences of not getting to grips with this issue are really quite serious. I mean we haven't had a run on the pound yet, but we will get one. You know the pound is already very soft: people are disinvesting, jobs are leaving the UK. People are getting fed up. Really the problem is that the longer this goes on, the less inclined people are to think that there is actually going to be a resolution.

    READ MORE: British Lawmakers Question Theresa May Amid Brexit Uncertainty (VIDEO)

    Sputnik: We know that there is a lot of unrest and unease about her stance and her leadership, not least with [Jacob] Rees-Mogg. Why haven't they been able to summon up these 48 Conservative lawmakers to submit their letters? Because she is saying, as you alluded to, this boil is getting bigger and bigger, the whole country is losing faith; there is a lot of frustration. Something has to be done. Why don't they get on with it?

    Simon Tormey: So you have got about 70 or 80, who are definitely against Mrs May and that is not enough to win the vote. As you know, you need over 150 votes in the Conservative Party. And I think a lot of the Conservative Party just said: "Look, let's look at this withdrawal bill. It is going to get voted down. That will prompt to vote of non-confidence".

    But, of course, Theresa May kind of sniffed out what that plan looked like and that's why she kicked the can down the road. So now I think the action in the next couple of days, going into the weekend, [there] will be a lot of Conservative Party MPs who are basically doing the maths. Can they get 154 members of the Parliamentary Conservative Party to vote against Theresa May? If they can't, of course, she gets to keep power for another 12 months of the Conservative Party.

    The problem is that you have got to get your timing right; they have got to do their maths. They've got to make sure that when push comes to shove they are actually going to be able to topple her. And of course, the second problem is — who are they going to back to take over? Because there is no real obvious challenger; there is Boris Johnson and David Davis, Amber Rudd and so on.

    But there doesn't yet seem to be a consensus around who would take over. So that is their second problem. [It's] one thing to get rid of a leader, another thing to bring forward a new one.

    READ MORE: LIVE UPDATES: Situation Over Brexit as May Goes to Brussels for Further Talks

    Sputnik: Whom would you suggest? Whom would you like to see? I mean you have obviously got a great insight. I mean it is great to have this conversation with a professor in Australia about this. You are on the outside, I am sure you are the exact right person to give us a suggestion because nobody in the UK can come up with the right answer. Surely, someone from Australia can.

    Simon Tormey: Well, it is very kind of you to put it in those terms. I think to me the person who looks like someone who could heal the party, bring it together and who could probably make an impression on the British public is actually Amber Rudd. Why? Because she is very pragmatic, she is not set in stone. Yes, she was a Remainer, but she understands the dynamics of House of Commons very well. She is a very good speaker. She is kind of a definite upgrade on Theresa May, as far as that kind of intellectual content is concerned.

    I think the problem is always going to be these 70 or 80 hard Brexit Conservative MPs and of course, they will be pushing probably for Boris Johnson. And Boris is really out there roaring like the big sort of old lion that he is. So there is going to be a contest there. But my instincts tell me that what they need is a healing candidate who can bring the party together rather than drive it apart.

    Views and opinions expressed in the article are those of Simon Tormey and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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