Will Theresa May really stay on and fight another election?

Ministers and backbenchers don't want her to fail, but they don't want her to carry on indefinitely either.

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Could there be life in the Prime Minister yet? Damian Green, Theresa May's closest, oldest and perhaps only real political ally has done a big interview with Politico, in which he's said that the PM could lead the Conservatives for "many years" and that he hopes and thinks she can take them into the next election.

Green's interview will fuel the suspicion among MPs and special advisers that May's gaffe in Japan – when she said she planned to stay on and fight another election – was not a gaffe but a planned set of remarks, devised in Downing Street by a team who are, as one senior Conservative put it, "going to hang on by the fingernails".

Although there's no affection for May at all, you can just about sketch out a plausible scenario where a) the alternatives either detonate or continue to fail to inspire, and b) Brexit goes so badly that no-one fancies their odds against Jeremy Corbyn and the PM ends up still in place in 2022, for want of anything better and because the job itself is so unattractive.

It's plausible but not very likely. If anything, the continuing chatter that May's career might not be wholly dead makes passing her programme harder, as while ministers and backbenchers don't want May to fail, they don't want her to carry on indefinitely either. What May and Green's interventions really do is increase the chance of a major panic after the local elections in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics. He also co-hosts the New Statesman podcast.

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