2018 could hardly be worse for Theresa May than 2017, an agonizing and even at times, humiliating year for the Prime Minister, with an election she only just about managed to avoid losing outright despite a thumping victory looking almost certain only weeks before. But glimmers of hope managed to shine through the sweeping clouds that covered much of the political world last year and could forecast a better year.
One of these was her getting through to the second round of negotiations of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, the prospect of which looked tenuous for much of 2017. She also saw off potential threats to her position from within her party, meaning she entered 2018 in a position of relative strength.
Theresa May will be hoping for a much quieter, more peaceful year which will be helped if 2018 proves to be the first year in the last five to go without a major election or referendum, with the Scottish referendum in 2014, a general election in 2015, the EU referendum in 2016 and another general election in 2017 all contributing to the tumultuous political climate of today. This could free up the government to concentrate on the technical and legal work of Brexit if all goes to plan.
On the flip-side, a lot can change in a year; just a quick glance a Jeremy Corbyn will show that as only a short time ago, many viewed him as unelectable, with an ignominious electoral defeat on the cards. In the event, he proved electorally competitive and a ferocious campaigner. Should Theresa May fall and a general election be called, it would be easy to predict him making big gains once again. However, it was his campaigning which sparked the enthusiasm that surrounds him and it will be difficult to maintain that when his job takes him away from making rousing, glamorous speeches at Glastonbury and the likes and towards the gritty work of Parliament and PMQ's where he has so often appeared unable to cope and where he experienced his most embarrassing moment, when David Cameron memorably told him, 'for heaven's sake man, go.' In truth, neither him nor May have the charisma and charm of a Blair or Cameron needed to waltz through PMQ's and come out gleaming on the other side, but Corbyn usually comes off the worse of the two in the menacing circus of the Commons.
It certainly looks less probable that Theresa May will fall than it did a few months ago and without her fall, it is almost certain that she will not call an election – barring unforeseeable circumstances of course. It is more likely than not that May will still be PM, come the turn of 2019.
A breather could be a good thing for the UK; it would give the government much needed and invaluable time to get Brexit in order and negotiations moving. It could also stabilise the economy, which has been looking fairly strong as the pound has reached post-referendum highs.
However, the recent cabinet reshuffle left her looking as weak as ever and the brusque calls from Nigel Farage for a second referendum puts question marks over any hopes of a breather from referendums and by extension, elections in 2018.
At first, it was unclear whether Jeremy Hunt had refused to move from health or Greg Clarke had done the same at business. As it turned out, both were determined to stay put and in the end, May not only left the two in their respective positions but conceded to Hunt the responsibility of social care. The dismissal of Justine Greening from education went a little more smoothly, but not without a hiccup as May’s offer of another position was refused. The reshuffle was characterised by weakness and a clear lack of direction.
The purpose of the reshuffle was to rejuvenate the cabinet and show that the government isn’t solely preoccupied by Brexit. But May’s government has so far been unable to solve the big issues other than Brexit. Those being housing, falling living standards and inequality. I'm hardly going out on a limb by predicting Brexit will dominate the political agenda in 2018, just as it did in 2017 and will continue to far beyond March 29 of 2019. May still has little wriggle room in the Brexit talks due to her Brexiteer ministers and backbenchers, many of whom have been eager to react with uproarious fury at any suggestion of a 'soft' Brexit. Although 2018 looks to be a more positive year for May, she will still have to tread lightly that she may avoid becoming yet another Prime Minister to be chewed up and spat out by the untamed monster of Brexit. The legacy and success of which certain to define her place in history, just as it did Cameron's.