By seeing off a revolt by her own MPs, British Prime Minister Theresa May has once again proved her ability to survive a political crisis – but in the process acknowledged her time in office is limited.
May responded to a no-confidence vote this week with a passion she reserves for when her back is against the wall, defending her Brexit deal and warning that ousting her could derail the whole process. She said she had devoted herself “unsparingly” to delivering the 2016 vote to leave the European Union and was “ready to finish the job.”
But addressing colleagues ahead of the vote, she also acknowledged the weakness of her position, by telling them she would not fight the next scheduled election in 2022.
It was a rare chink in the armour of a prime minister praised by her supporters as resilient but accused by her critics of ploughing on oblivious to the changing circumstances around her.
May took over after her predecessor David Cameron quit following the shock vote for Brexit in June 2016, winning by default after her rivals fought among themselves or withdrew. She had campaigned personally to stay in the EU, but has repeatedly stressed the importance of implementing the verdict, rejecting calls for a rethink by those who believe it was a terrible mistake.
Yet her moves to minimise the economic damage of the break sparked anger among hardline Brexit supporters, who accuse her of undermining the whole project.
Despite the near constant criticism, including from inside her own government, May has kept at it and compares herself to her cricketing hero Geoffrey Boycott, who was a byword for doggedness as a batsman.
The vicar’s daughter has also gleefully seized on a putdown by party elder Kenneth Clarke that she was a “bloody difficult woman.”
May eschews gossip and networking, proving herself through hard work, spending six years in the tough job of home secretary before entering Downing Street.