The Prime Minister’s tenure in Number 10 has been plagued with resignations, splits and acts of defiance from her benches, all of which “presents the risk of a party falling apart” as the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union has “become corrosively divisive”. Mr Hague, the former Conservative leader from 1997 to 2001, has issued a damaging assessment of the current state of British politics and questions “whether the parties can survive at all in their current form”. With the UK’s departure from the bloc still in doubt as the impasse in the House of Commons and in Brussels continues, Mr Hague fears the next conservative leadership contest will be decided not by the best candidate but who comes out of the Brexit battle with the least scars.
Mrs May has already stated she will not be standing in the next general election which is scheduled for 2022.
In the Conservatives there is no outstanding candidate to bring the party together, and Mr Hague has stressed “choosing the wrong leader could lead to a long spell in opposition”.
Mr Hague told the Telegraph: “If the Tories’ coming leadership election is fought on the central issue that currently divides it, the handling of Brexit, and is based solely on the factions and rivalries that this issue has produced, then the dangers of a party split will be much increased.”
He added: “If a leadership election is all about who did what in the great battles of Brexit, the splits it has brought will only be deepened.”
The former party leader has also expressed his concerns the party will be faced with a choice between a Remainer and a Brexiteer in the run up to 2022, but Mr Hague has insisted the candidate will need to have a “wide agenda” and focus on the core issues of housing, immigration, economy and crime in order to be a success.
Mr Hague said: “Unfortunately, this is what many members are gearing up for, working out how to elect or defeat a hard-line Brexiteer.
“That would be the wrong way to think about the future. When Brexit happens, and whether or not it happens, a successful leader of this country will need to command a wide agenda that helps people to cope with the great pressures the 2020s will bring.”
He added: “So my advice to those who might even now be composing declarations of candidacy in their heads is to define the new political challenges and put the Conservative Party at the centre of solving them, rather than be defined by the furious controversy of recent years.
“Otherwise, Labour members will not be the only ones wondering if the next person elected to lead a united party will be the last.”
Mr Hague’s attack on the handling of Brexit comes as negotiations reach a “critical stage” with the bloc.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and EU Exit Secretary Stephen Barclay are due to hold discussions with the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier in order to push through changes to the controversial backstop.
Meanwhile French President Emmanuel Macron warned that Brexit is a “danger” to the future of the European Union.
Mr Macron stated the result of the 2016 referendum was the result of failures by the EU to respond to “its peoples’ needs for protection from the major shocks of the modern World”.