Theresa May set for better year
2017 was a tumultuous year for Theresa May, but political columnist Janan Ganesh tells FT editor Lionel Barber that things can only get better for the UK's beleaguered prime minister this year.
Filmed by Petros Gioumpasis. Produced by Daniel Garrahan
2017 was a tumultuous year for Theresa May. What will 2018 bring for Britain's beleaguered prime minister? With me is Janan Ganesh, our political commentator. Janan, is it going to get better in 2018?
2018 can't be worse than 2017, an absolutely excruciating year for Theresa May. The election that she almost lost completely, just about managed to survive. But at the end of 2017 there was a clue that this year might be better. And that was the fact that she got through to the second round of negotiations when it comes to British withdrawal from the EU. And she managed to see off some leadership speculation and threats to her position. So I think 2018 might be a slightly more pleasant year for the prime minister.
And can we expect a cabinet reshuffle in the coming days, weeks?
We can, and there's speculation as to what it will involve. The big theory towards the end of last year was that Philip Hammond, the chancellor of the exchequer, might be moved, he has lots of Tory critics who thinks he's not sufficiently committed to Brexit. That seems to have receded a little bit.
Yeah, it's a safe budget, safety-first budget.
Yeah. He gave a non-disastrous budget, which counts as an achievement.
Excuse me, I mean safety-first budget. Non-disastrous stuff.
By 2017 standards that did count as a special political achievement. And now the speculation has moved on to whether Boris Johnson might get another job, the current foreign secretary. But I think it might be a quiet year not just for Theresa May, but really for the entire political class. 2018 could be the first year for five years where there's no major political election or referendum.
2014 we had the Scottish referendum, 2015 a general election, '16 the Europe referendum, and '17 that unexpected general election. Again, this could be the first year of relative peace and quiet, where people can concentrate on the technical work of Brexit.
And as you are writing so eloquently in your weekly column, this would be something you would welcome, a breather, if you like.
Yeah. I think the political class as a whole has had a rough 10 years. If you think about the crash, which is now-- I think the fall of Lehman Brothers was September 2008. That almost dishonoured the political class. They lost a lot of credibility as managers of the economy, custodians of people's prosperity. Then there was the expenses scandal. Then there was austerity, and then Brexit itself.
And it's become a very intense anti-politics mood in this country and elsewhere. And I wonder whether, with a bit of perspective and a bit of time to breathe and think, politicians might start thinking that actually endless apologies and promises to be in touch and listen and learn have only got them so far, and they might need to start standing up for their profession in 2018.
And where does that leave Labour under Jeremy Corbyn?
In a much better position than they were in this time last year, when lots of pundits, including myself, thought they would have no chance of being electorally competitive. And they were no more than competitive in the June election last year. Will they get a chance to break through? In other words, will there be a general election this year? I think only if Theresa May falls. And it doesn't look probable, or it looks less probable than it did a few months ago that she will fall this year.
You've called eloquently for a breather. If we're looking at the other important contest in 2018, the Premier League, do you think this is the year when Arsenal will actually take a breather?
Well, you refer to it as a contest. Presumably, right, now the contest really ended at about December 2017, when Manchester City ended up double digits ahead in the league. What is going to happen in 2018 is the World Cup. And I'm sure, with a relatively quiet political picture, the FT will want to appoint a special World Cup correspondent to cover the whole thing on expenses.
No pressure, Janan Ganesh.