British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a big test of her authority on Thursday when parliament votes on her policy programme, watered down after an election setback and growing pressure over her Brexit and austerity plans. May will cut short a visit to Berlin to dash back to Britain for the late afternoon vote, underlining her precarious position after she lost her governing Conservative Party’s parliamentary majority in an election on June 8 that she did not need to call.
May saw off an attempt by the opposition Labour Party on Wednesday to defeat her in a vote on public sector pay, thanks partly to the support of a small Northern Irish party which she secured under a deal intended to enable her to pass legislation. “We obviously want the Queen’s Speech to pass,” her spokesman said, referring to the government’s policy programme set out to parliament by Queen Elizabeth last week.
Asked whether she would make it back from Germany in time for the vote, he said: “It is the prime minister’s firm intention to be here for the vote on the Queen’s Speech.” The vote is not without its difficulties. Opposition parties have proposed amendments which could test the discipline of May’s supporters.
The speaker of parliament said three amendments would be considered — one to ease concerns over abortion rights in Northern Ireland, one to change her position on leaving the European Union, and another to drop austerity policies. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Conservative programme was “in tatters” and should bend to the will of voters who wanted an end to public sector cuts, which some have blamed for a devastating fire that killed at least 80 in west London and for straining a police service battling militant attacks.
“Theresa May does not have a mandate for continued cuts to our schools, hospitals, police and other vital public services or for a race-to-the-bottom Brexit. Labour will fight these policies every step of the way,” he said in a statement. “Labour won support in every region and nation of Britain for our jobs-first Brexit approach and our policies that would transfer wealth, power and opportunity to the many from the few.”