Sunday, 4 February 2018

The Brexit Dream Team Delusion

The Times is probably the most famous newspaper in the world and is regarded by the establishment as their paper of record. How sad it is then to see this pillar of the press become the politics equivalent of Hello magazine. Today's front page, "Brexiteers plot to installs 'dream team' at No 10", is gossipy copy typical of Tim Shipman. Theresa May is facing a coup "Tory MPs claim". A cabinet Brexiteer has "told MPs" Liam Fox will resign if a customs union with the EU is signed (might that cabinet member be the disgraced serving minister himself?) Also, "MPs called for" someone to keep an eye on our negotiating team in Brussels lest they flush away Brexit's gilded turd. And lastly a "leading Eurosceptic" says the Brexiteers will take over if the customs union plan goes ahead. Meanwhile, friends of May say the PM is planning an away day to finalise the government's negotiating position - which is a bit of a worry considering we're almost half way to leaving the EU. But here she is very definitely going to put her foot fown and tell recalcitrant ministers to shape up or ship out.

While I have no doubt we're being related stuff whispered to "Shippers" over the course of last week, the layout of this government-in-waiting is more fantasy football than a serious forecast of what's going to happen. Consider, Boris Johnson is set to be Prime Minister with Michael Gove as the deputy and Jacob Rees-Mogg in the Treasury. Senior positions are also planned for the permanently puddled Dominic Raab and the determinedly duplicitous Priti Patel.

Allow me pour creosote into the coffee. In the first place, he who wields the knife never wears the crown. They know this, everyone knows this, and so they're going to have to find someone dumb enough to be the stalking horse. The problem is these days political certainties have the awkward tendency of going the way of the flesh, so who can be sure the chump won't become the champ and unexpectedly get into Number 10? The second difficulty is a hard Brexit sweep of the government is impossible, because not all of the Parliamentary Conservative Party are signed up to the self-destructive vision of Johnson, Gove, Mogg et al. The Tory middle ground, if you like, is more or less where Theresa May (sans rhetoric) really is - leaving the EU, but desperately lurching from crisis to crisis to ensure their class doesn't pay too steep a price. Even assuming a no-confidence vote would go against the PM (which is unlikely, at the moment), a victorious Brexit ultra ticket would have a hard time keeping these MPs on side. It still has to ensure cabinet has a certain political balance for it to be accepted as legitimate by the parliamentary party. And as for the centrist-leaning Tories, in such a scenario perhaps the fantasy of the new centrist party would come to pass, robbing the government of its majority and the ability of Johnson and co to deliver their tax dodgers' Brexit. None of this is to say this bunch won't chance their arm, but ultimately they know the numbers do not stack up for a stable government under their leadership. Their watch would be no different than May's. It would be paralysed and crisis prone.

Neither should we forget what happened last time. Everything was in place for Johnson's assault on Number 10, Gove was at his back ... and then Gove plunged the knife in and filleted his best chance, perhaps his only chance to become leader. In the context of a successful stalking horse challenge, there is nothing to suggest the three Brexiteers could run a united leadership campaign, let alone reach out to the less blinkered still clinging to the PM.

Beset by crisis as she is, May is still in a stronger position than the ultras. Nevertheless, that she allows herself to get blown hither and tither by these knaves and fools illustrates her lack of acumen. There are no plaudits to be won pressing on with her present customs union plan, it remains a damaging course of action, but she can do so knowing a coup from the right would fall apart. The question is will she ever twig that this is the case?

1 comment:

Uriah said...

Liam Fox says he will resign if an agreementto stay in the customs union is signed... Bonus!