The Speech Boris Ought To Deliver Today

(but which he almost certainly won’t)

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier today, Tuesday 2nd October 2018

Forget about Theresa May’s set-piece Prime Minister’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference tomorrow. No-one, not even normally loyal supporters, expects anything much of it, or of her. Given the utter disaster that her Conference speech was last year, and so low is the bar she consequently has to clear, that just getting to the end of it without major mishap will be success of a kind.

No: today’s the day. The day when Boris supposedly comes clean, sets out his stall, and unashamedly makes his pitch to be both Party Leader and Prime Minister. The day when, in a Conservative Home event scheduled to last from 1.00 pm until 2.00 pm, he makes a speech clearly calculated to be the big event and talking-point of the conference, and upstage May’s predictably pedestrian by comparison effort tomorrow into the bargain.

But the runes aren’t necessarily overwhelmingly favourable. Out in front of the pack with Party members and activists he may be: but in the event that May is deposed, whenever and for whatever reason, he has to surmount the obstacle of a Parliamentary vote by Tory MPs to decide which two leadership candidates are placed before the membership.

And a majority of those 315 Tory MPs are determined that he won’t be one of them. Many purely because they are either closet or overt Remainers, who form a majority of Tory MPs anyway and would oppose any Brexiteer becoming Prime Minister, and others who, irrespective of their Brexit stance, harbour personal antipathy towards Boris for a variety of reasons, some arguably justified, but others less so.

So rather than tilting at an immovable windmill, a shrewd Boris should box clever, and confound both expectations – and his enemies – by doing the completely unexpected.

He should start by repeating the essence of his resignation speech, namely its forensic, entirely policy-focused, criticisms of May’s Chequers Plan approach to Brexit and which were careful not to attack May personally, and its plea that it was not too late for a different, more robust approach more in tune with the desire expressed by British voters via the Referendum result for clear economic, judicial and political separation from the EU’s institutions.

Boris resignation speech 18 July 2018

He ought then to go on to note regretfully how this hasn’t happened, with not only the eminently foreseeable result of the EU’s peremptory rejection of Chequers despite even more concessions, but its accompaniment by the intransigent Eurocrats’ contemptuous and malevolent humiliation of May personally.

And then continue by expressing his sorrow at how, despite other and better Brexit plans being available, the Prime Minister has inexplicably persisted in sticking to her Chequers  Plan, despite its manifest flaws and unpopularity.

He should then turn to the Conservative’s non-Brexit difficulties. It’s deeply disturbing, he should say, that extreme-Left Corbyn socialism appears to have been allowed to somehow gain such a foothold among the electorate, despite the abundance of evidence from everywhere it’s been tried that it doesn’t work: that the Tories are out-polling Labour by barely the statistical margin of error in polling: that the business presence at a hard-Left Labour Party conference was notable for its extent: and that anticipation of a Corbyn government is as high as it is.

UK voting intentions 30Sep2018

He ought then to follow this up by noting ruefully the present leadership’s seeming inability to come up with any significant counter to Corbyn’s apparent appeal by forcefully making the arguments for a smaller, less-activist state and freer markets, and by devising innovative supply-side solutions to the housing and elderly-care crises, but resorting too readily either to negative scaremongering or watered-down versions of Corbyn’s own policies.

And then conclude, with infinite regret, that he’d come to the inescapable conclusion that the current leadership was unlikely to reverse this trend, so that however reluctantly, he could see no other option than a change of helmsman.

This is the point at which Boris should drop the bombshell that no-one’s expecting.

He should say that he’s aware of his own shortcomings: that he accepts that his colourful and occasionally chaotic, even louche, private life is a turn-off for many people: that he acknowledges he’s almost certainly temperamentally unsuited to the mundane attention to detail that the highest office demands, even of those once thought capable of handling it: that he recognises his limited appeal among his MP colleagues: and that, consequently, while convinced with regret that a change of leadership is inevitable both for Brexit and domestic political reasons, he personally would not be a candidate.

But follow this immediately by a declaration that he pledges himself to exploit such popularity as he does enjoys with the Party’s grassroots and activists, and the wider public, to campaign up and down the country for a committed Brexiteer putative, and hopefully actual Prime Minister.

Tory Leader poll Mon 01Oct 2018

And subsequently support him or her, in the capacity of Party Chairman, to lead the campaigns both for a proper, not ersatz, Brexit and the defeat of Corbyn. Because if May falls, the hapless Brandon Lewis will fall with her, and there will be a vacancy.

With this strategy, Boris would at a stroke destroy the main objection to a change of Party Leader and Prime Minister: that he seeks that change only as a vehicle for his own vaulting ambition. He would eliminate the obstacle of Tory MPs who, though they might be open to May’s replacement with a Brexiteer PM, wouldn’t support it if it meant Boris in Number Ten.

He would negate the disadvantage of his own mercurial temperament by deploying it in a role for which it’s far more suited. He would in effect have loaded the rifle, aimed and cocked it, but invited a more popular and accurate marksman to pull the trigger and fire it.  

This strategy and that speech would throw May and her soft-Brexit acolytes, anticipating a straight-out leadership challenge from Boris, right off balance. And it would provide a Conference talking-point like no other. It might even make Boris go down in history, as the statesman who secured Brexit by sacrificing his own ambition for the sake of the cause.

If only.

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The Fight for the Soul of the Tory Party

By deposing the Leader and Prime Minister largely responsible for its current ideological paralysis, the Conservative Party must resolve its intellectual vacuum about what modern conservatism stands for

Note: this is the longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 1st October 2018

“There are some of us, Mr Chairman, who will fight, and fight, and fight again, to save the party we love”.

In 2018, 58 years after they were addressed by its then Leader Hugh Gaitskell to the 1960 Labour Party Conference, opposing its move towards the hard-Left and its embrace of unilateral nuclear disarmament, those words need once again be addressed to a party conference. Only this time, to the Conservative Party Conference, and moreover not by its Leader, but at her.

As if Theresa May’s duplicitous preparation and imposition on her Cabinet of her now justly infamous Chequers Plan were not bad enough, she has carried on championing it even after its crushing, personally humiliating dismissal by the EU.

May humiliated Salzburg Summit 3She continues to cling obstinately, not only to Chequers as the sole Brexit option she is prepared to consider, but also, incredibly, to Olly Robbins, her thoroughly discredited No 10 Brexit adviser, whose brainchild it was, and on whose ‘expert’ advice that the EU would accept it she persists in relying, to the exclusion of all others.

Yet not merely other, but superior, alternatives exist, being urged on her constantly by allies and opponents alike, which both better reflect the desire manifested in the Brexit vote for clear political, judicial and economic separation from Brussels, and give better opportunities for a newly-independent post-Brexit Britain to forge new trading links around the world.

The Institute of Economic Affairs’ Plan A Plus maximises the scope for eliminating damaging tariffs and regaining control over our fisheries, as well as facilitating new Free Trade Agreements with the world’s dynamically-growing economies outside the stagnating and scelerotic EU: Chequers keeps us tied into it as closely as possible.

IEA Plan A Plus Launch Sep 2018The Canada Plus arrangement gives us total freedom of control over immigration policy, and independence from the EU’s ‘Common Rule Book’: Chequers gives us neither.

Yet they fall on deaf ears. May has her Chequers Plan, she insists that nothing else is acceptable, and that, for her, is that. To the evidence, both that it is less popular than No-Deal, and that its unpopularity exacerbates that of herself and her party, she is impervious.Unpopularity of Chequers dealBut there is worse to come. May’s obdurate adherence to Chequers is being compounded by her acceptance at the very least, or even endorsement if not something more, of a grotesquely cynical ramping up of Project Fear.

The scaremongering operation born out of the Treasury’s pre-Referendum antipathy to Brexit is now being pushed once again by May in full Stockholm-Syndrome mode – on new ‘expert’ advice from her preferred source? – but this time against a No-Deal Brexit as an alternative to Chequers, as part of a deliberate “Chequers or Chaos” strategy.

We saw a foretaste of it in the run-up to the early-July Chequers Summit, with Airbus warning of an exodus from the UK in the event of No-Deal, very soon, curiously, after discussions with Business Secretary and arch-Remainer Greg Clark. But since then, there have been plenty other examples. To quote just two or three:

After having previously instructed them to spend their summer holidays touring Europe to drum up support for her Chequers Plan, May was in early September ordering Ministers to stress to the public that there was no alternative to it

Or try the Association of British Insurers’ warning that it would become illegal in the event of a No-Deal Brexit for insurance-based pensions to be paid to UK-nationality recipients resident in the EU. Fortunately, fairly easy to demolish.

Then, as recently as last week, May’s government theatrically appointed a Food Supplies Minister, “to oversee the protection of food supplies in the event of a No-Deal Brexit”. Such an appointment has previously confined to wartime and was not even deemed necessary in the rolling strikes and disruptions to distribution experienced in the 1974 industrial crisis and the 1978-79 Winter of Discontent.

In summary, not only do we have a Remainer Prime Minister sticking resolutely to a Brexit plan already rejected out-of-hand by an EU no doubt confident that further concessions can be wrung from a desperate Theresa May in deep political trouble, but shunning all other, and better alternatives. We also have a Remainer Prime Minister colluding in, if not directing, a co-ordinated attempt to frighten the British public into accepting it.Project Fear 2018

It’s perhaps hardly surprising that 56 per cent of those polled by Sky Data think Brexit will be worse than expected. The Remainer dominated media and political elite, including even the Governor of the Bank of England, have done little for the last 28 months except attempt to talk the nation into a state of catatonic panic. Mrs May must be so pleased.

Were Brexit the sole source of the Conservatives’ predicament, the crisis might – just – be containable. But overlying May’s Brexit shambles is the Party’s severe ideological vacuum, epitomised by the instinctively statist, authoritarian, May, devoid of any discernible guiding philosophy, personality, or leadership ability, and of which her self-inflicted Brexit shambles is arguably merely a part – its apparently total inability to come up with any ideas, vision or policies to counter the 1970s-throwback, reheated hard-Left socialism of Corbyn’s Labour.

Not before time, commentators have been lining up this past week to highlight the depth, and cause, of this malaise, and rightly condemn it.

In The Daily Telegraph, Allister Heath correctly laid the vast majority of the blame for Corbynomics being so ostensibly popular with Middle England on the faux-‘Conservative’ Party which has largely stopped countering it and in effect capitulated to it.

McDonnell’s Mad Marxism is very likely to be an electoral winner, warned Maggie Pagano at Reaction, not because of any intrinsic merits, but thanks to Theresa May’s Tories’ timidity & incompetence.

The Conservatives, observed Ryan Bourne accurately, also in The Daily Telegraph, have now spent so long agreeing with Labour’s negative portrayal of our economic system, and even imitating its policies, that they have now deprived themselves of any effective criticisms of them.

Ministers like Philip Hammond, noted The Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, are incapable of fighting back other than with left-wing prescriptions like surreptitious tax rises or expensive new spending projects, so that Corbyn is actually leading the nation’s intellectual conversation.

The Conservative Party must re-embrace freeing individuals & businesses from creeping Nanny-State paternalism & authoritarianism, in favour of aspiration, opportunity & meritocracy, pleaded former International Development Minister Priti Patel MP, writing in the Parliamentary magazine The House.

Red-Labour has been made electable by the pseudo-Tories, fumed Gerald Warner at Reaction, condemning the so-called ‘modernised’ Conservative Party for squandering the once-in-a-lifetime chance given to it by Brexit to cease being an empty, principle-free shell.

The Conservatives, fulminated The Spectator editorial in its pre-Conference edition, are functioning as Corbyn’s Useful Idiots: years of failing to make the case for basic liberty and the free enterprise system, of stealing Labour policies in pursuit of electoral advantage, have left them unable to explain why Corbyn is wrong.

And when usually loyal Conservatives like Charles Moore and Tim Montgomerie legitimately ascribe culpability for the Party’s ideological paralysis to May and call for her to go, in effect saying, rightly, that she is all but guaranteeing the advent of a hard-Left Labour government led by Corbyn and McDonnell, her days are surely numbered.

So in Birmingham, over the next two days, there are parallel Brexit and non-Brexit battles taking place. The unofficial, but never far from the surface, impending leadership contest is almost immaterial, because the ideological struggle over the shape, not only of Brexit but of Conservatism, will determine its outcome.

Will the Party continue on its present ever-Leftward drift, preoccupied with fashionably politically-correct social-justice and identity-politics, and convinced, bizarrely, that the only way to stop full-strength Corbyn economically is to offer diet-Corbyn instead? Or will it somehow re-discover the moral and intellectual firepower to oppose Corbynism absolutely and offer a distinctive and optimistic vision of a freer, less-taxed and better-off society?

For anyone wanting the latter, an irredeemably intransigent, incompetent, inflexible Theresa May, a disaster for her party, the country and arguably democracy itself, and who ideally should not even be giving the Leader’s Speech on Wednesday at all, must be forced to declare that it will be her last. If ever there was a need for a repeat-in-reverse on Tuesday of Macmillan’s Night of the Long Knives, it’s now.

Drastic though it is, the present circumstances do justify a palace coup – whereby she is told by a co-ordinated procession of individual colleagues visiting her one by one as with Thatcher in 1990, and in no uncertain terms, that the game is up: that she cannot lead the party through Brexit, much less into the next General Election which could follow a failure to get her Brexit deal through Parliament before March 2019: and that her only alternative is to resign, with effect from the conclusion of her speech, in favour of a pro-Brexit caretaker Prime Minister.

Labour Party Conferences may well be mainly characterised by a succession of extreme-Left demagogues delivering two-minute rants from the platform on arcane and largely indecipherable motions. But at least policy is discussed and even voted on, albeit after a fashion.

But in almost comically stark contrast, the obsessively stage-managed, anodyne, debate-free rallies of the slavishly-loyal, listening dutifully to ministers’ set-piece speeches, which now comprise the formal proceedings of Conservative Party conferences, have become notorious – rightly mocked even by The Daily Telegraph as merely “paying through the nose for the privilege of clapping”.

Conference audience dutifully applauding

If the Party, despite its current dire ideological and political predicament, yet again prefers to close ranks, eyes and ears, and contrives to hold a synthetically-orchestrated, reality-ignoring Conference: and if the pro-Brexit, anti-May dissenters yet again recoil from openly mounting a challenge, both to her conduct of Brexit specifically and her party leadership generally: then a Corbyn government is a near-certainty, and they will have no-one but themselves to blame.

That modern-day equivalent of Gaitskell’s “fight for the soul of the Party” needs to be taking place. In Birmingham. Here and now.

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The Salzburg Summit Winners and Losers

Who were the principal winners and losers from Theresa May’s Salzburg EU summit débacle?

Note: this is the longer version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 24th September 2018

In the city famous for its associations with The Sound of Music, the notes played at Thursday 20th September’s European Union Summit were discordant: not only because the would-be soloist Theresa May was unbelievably poor, but also because the Brussels Orchestra wanted her either to play a different composition altogether, or preferably not play at all.May Salzburg Summit 2

Over its four-and-a-half decades of European Union membership, Britain has often suffered frustrations and rebuffs at its tedious summits: the then PM Cameron’s total failure to return from the crucial one in February 2016 without even a minor concession he could implausibly present to UK voters as ‘significant reform’ was merely the most recent.

But in the entire history of its involvement, the malevolent ambush and abject humiliation calculatedly inflicted on Theresa May by the EU Summit in Salzburgin rejecting out of hand her Chequers Plan for Britain’s EU exit, was surely unprecedented, however much we rightly condemn both the origins and details of the Plan itself for their duplicity and excessive appeasement of, and concessions to, Brussels. 

But such situations always produce winners as well as losers. Who were the principal winners and losers from Theresa May’s Salzburg débacle?

The first big loser is Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. Formerly a staunch Brexiteer, he agreed to take on the job at the Department for Exiting the European Union just after the resignations of David Davis and Steve Baker in the aftermath of May’s infamous Chequers Summit.

But he did so knowing the department had been cynically used by May’s No 10 Downing Street as camouflage for their covert backstairs operation to put together the Chequers Plan, presented to the Cabinet as a take-it-or-leave-it fait-accompli.

He also accepted the post in full knowledge that he would be required to progress and promote Chequers, which was already being comprehensively eviscerated for its lack of ambition and abandonment of the red lines which May herself had laid down in her Lancaster House and Mansion House speeches.

Three months later, May’s Chequers Plan, already (and justifiably so) politically toxic in Britain, and now comprehensively rejected by the EU, lies in ruins, to all intents and purposes dead. Whether Raab was motivated mainly by the prospect of promotion is almost immaterial. As bad judgement calls go, his was a humdinger, and it deserves to blight the rest of his political career.

Theresa's Puppet-Master Olly RobbinsA bigger loser than Raab is May’s No 10 Brexit negotiations adviser, former FCO mandarin Oliver Robbins.

As supposedly her ‘expert’ on the EU and thereby uniquely equipped to advise May on what the EU would or would not find acceptable, Robbins has long been suspected, not entirely without reason, of being opposed to Brexit notwithstanding the Referendum result, and therefore determined to influence an all-too-gullible and vulnerable to such influence Theresa May towards as soft-Remain, substantially-in-name-only a Brexit as possible.

It was Robbins who allegedly helped to devise, in secret, behind the backs of the public, MPs and even the Cabinet, and deceitfully using the Brexit Department as camouflage while disregarding its recommendations, May’s ignominious Chequers Plan: which was bounced on to the Cabinet, remember, with the peremptory instruction that it could not be changed, because it had already been agreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

With the EU’s emphatic dismissal of Chequers, Robbins’ credibility is zero, his reputation for EU expertise deservedly joining in the gutter his reputation for a total abrogation of Civil Service impartiality and neutrality. The EU whose anti-democracy and technocratic authoritarianism he so obviously reveres has rewarded his misplaced loyalty and self-abasement in its cause by making a monumental fool of him. Clearly, he can play no further part whatsoever in any Brexit negotiations. Whether he can remain in Government service at all is dubious.

The main loser, of course, is May herself. For all the frantic spin of the 36 hours after the Salzburg Summit, attempting, with the connivance of the media, to present her simultaneously as both the grievously-wronged honest-broker and the re-incarnation of Boadicea, a Margaret Thatcher Mk II standing up for Britain against EU chicanery and intransigence . . . .Sun Front Page Sat 22 Sep 2018. . . . the inescapable fact is that she has been completely and utterly humiliated – exposed at best as a naïve, gullible ingenuée, and at worst as a devious, cynical schemer hoist on the petard of her own duplicity.

Let’s not forget just how and why we arrived at this embarrassment. It’s because Theresa May herself – whether out of ideological conviction or political expediency hardly matters – set out deliberately to deceive her Cabinet, MPs, party and country that she was pursuing in good faith the Brexit which 17.4 million voted for and which she largely pledged to achieve for them: while at the same time launching a secret backstairs operation to devise and advance her own much weaker Soft-Remain, Brexit-In-Name-Only Chequers Plan which not only reflected her own Remainer inclinations but preferred to appease an EU determined to ensure Britain must not be seen to benefit, either economically or politically, from Brexit.

It was, and is, gross constitutional treachery and political ineptitude, and that it has blown up in her face is poetic justice. Yet bear in mind, amid the spin, that she’s still a Remainer, she hasn’t junked either Chequers or the people who designed it, and she’d still revert to it if the EU accepted it. Her credibility too is at rock-bottom, and her position is even weaker than before. Hence the desperate, choreographed attempts to shore it up, to try and insulate her from irresistible demands for her resignation.

Johnson, Davis resign from Cabinet post ChequersAnd the main winners? Well, foremost, Boris Johnson, David Davis, Steve Baker. Leaving personalities aside, their resignations in protest at Chequers now look prescient, principled and justified. Paradoxically, the EU itself has proved they were right all along. Their positions, and credibility, have been strengthened.

ERG Davis, Paterson, Villiers, Rees-MoggNext come Jacob Rees-Mogg and the European Research Group of backbench Brexiteer Tory MPs. Their technical and constitutional objections to Chequers, and their warnings that the EU would not accept it, have also been proved right. Salzburg has vindicated them, and they too won’t be so easy for the closet-Remainer May-ites to dismiss in future.

After that come Tory members and activists in the country. Consistently opposed to Chequers in Conservative Home surveys, the latest of which shows a mere 10 per cent believing May should stick with Chequers, they have also been proved correct.  And this matters, because with a majority of Tory MPs being overt or closet Remainers, it’s grassroots dissatisfaction which provides the best chance of forcing May out.

History is replete with apparent defeats that subsequently turned out have been the springboard for ultimate victory. For both Brexiteers and Britain, Salzburg could well be another.

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Soft-Remainer Wets vs Canada-Plus Drys

The real issue behind the Tories’ Boris vs Doris imbroglio earlier this month, ostensibly about wives and words, is actually a bitter internecine dispute about the shape of Brexit.

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 10th September 2018

Neither Co-Editor of The Conservative Woman, Kathy Gyngell, I suspect, nor I, imagined it when we co-wrote our article “Boris’ Resignation Speech – Did He Flunk It?” published there on 20th July 2018.

Boris resignation speech 18 July 2018

That, a mere seven weeks later, the subject of it would be embroiled in quite the degree of controversy which enveloped him over the weekend of 8th and 9th September, firstly in the fall-out from his divorce announcement earlier that week, and secondly from some provocative language in his Mail On Sunday article attacking Theresa May’s justifiably much-criticised and thoroughly-debunked Chequers Plan for a Soft-Remain Brexit-In-Name-Only.

And yet this alleged scandal has always had a very artificial, almost manufactured, feel about it. It isn’t really about Boris’ chaotic private life, or his undoubted character flaws, much less about some ill-judged phraseology in a newspaper article.

It’s merely the latest escalation of the Johnson vs May war, Boris vs Doris, and of the ‘Conservative’ Party’s internal struggle between the advocates of a Clean-Break Brexit and the more numerous  – in some cases Brexit-ambivalent but nakedly-careerist – supporters of an ultra-soft departure that’s more spin than substance.

Firstly, Boris’ serial philandering, and he and his wife having for some months lived in effect separate lives, is hardly a State secret. In some ways it’s arguably among the least of the various faults, like a lack of attention to detail, vaulting personal ambition, and a sometimes cavalier regard for accuracy, which make him such a dubious leadership proposition.

Yet the whiff of hypocrisy in some of the pearls-clutching reaction to it borders on the nauseating, coming from a party which has spent much of the past two decades enthusiastically supporting, if not imitating, much of the cultural-Left’s attack on the institution of the family.

May's leopard-print kitten-heels 2002

And all in a desperate, ultimately futile attempt to counter the Tories’ self-inflicted ‘Nasty Party’ image. Remind me once again, precisely who it was who coined that particular damaging phrase which has hung round its neck ever since?

Secondly, much of the confected outrage about Boris’ Mail on Sunday article has to rely for its impact on a blatant misquote. He did not, as was widely, but inaccurately, reported, liken Theresa May to a suicide-bomber. What he did say was, that, in proposing exit from the European Union on the basis of May’s Chequers Plan, “we have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution – and handed the detonator to Michel Barnier.’

Now, given the extent to which, under Chequers, EU rules and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice would continue to hold sway over large areas of economic activity, despite the UK no longer being a member of the EU, this is a fair point. But it’s also one which May’s No 10 team would definitely prefer was not widely understood.

Despite the EU’s effective rejection of the Chequers Plan, May’s increasingly bunker-like No 10 are still heavily invested in it. Remember, it was they who put it together in a secret backstairs operation in which May’s own Cabinet was kept in the dark, and the Department for Exiting the European Union was cynically used as camouflage for it. Hence the faux-indignation by May’s outriders in the Brexit-In-Name-Only wing of the ‘Conservative’ Party at Boris’ laying bare its manifest constitutional concessions. 

Next, it was revealed – or at least claimed – in 9th September’s The Sunday Times that a dossier of Johnson’s peccadillos had already been prepared in Downing Street for deployment against him in the event of him launching a leadership bid. May’s No 10, I’d suggest, is in paranoid-panic mode, and especially since the news broke that Boris is to address a 1,000-strong rally on the Fringe at the ‘Conservative’ Party conference on Tuesday 2nd October. It isn’t exactly difficult to guess what his main subject will be.

Boris 'We Never Even Tried' Brexit headline D-Tel Mon 03Sep18

That’s also the day before May’s speech to Conference as Leader. Given the utter disaster that was May’s Conference Speech last year, on top of her normal charisma-free, robotic delivery in contrast to Boris’ oratory – at which, for all his faults, he excels – it will be the talking-point of the Conference and set such a high bar for May’s own speech the next day that she is bound to fail.

So it’s not difficult to see why an unspectacular divorce announcement and a luridly-worded section in an otherwise unremarkable newspaper article would have been seen in the No 10 bunker as an opportunity to push the nascent Stop-Boris-and-Discredit-Brexit operation into higher gear.

Incidentally, as an operation to discredit an opponent and potential leadership challenger, and of which May is the beneficiary, the similarities with how Andrea Leadsom came to be removed as a challenger to May’s unelected and unopposed coronation in mid-2016 are intriguing.

None of this is to absolve Johnson of the faults which make him unsuitable and risky leadership material: I’m on record at The Conservative Woman calling him ‘a dilettante, a gadfly, and prone to indiscretions’, after all. But it does weaken the likelihood of an alternative to May’s disastrous BRINO Chequers Plan gaining traction, even though Boris himself appears uncertain of which one he favours.

In the past week or so, it’s emerged that the three leading Tory Brexiteers, namely David Davis, Steve Baker and Jacob Rees-Mogg, have all favoured exiting the EU on what’s known as the “Canada Plus” option. This isn’t ideal, for all sorts of reasonsnot least its implications for Northern Ireland’s economy and its cross-border trade with the Republic of Ireland: but compared with Chequers, it delivers more on the instruction handed to the Government by the electorate.

May, of course, is dead set against it. The real story of the Boris imbroglio of the past week is that it risks strengthening her hand, against his and those of his less compulsively mercurial colleagues, in the battle over which vision of Brexit is to prevail. Against that, the brouhaha surrounding Boris, his libido, and his leadership ambitions are merely a noisy, but ultimately peripheral, sideshow.

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A ‘Just Vote UKIP’ Strategy, to Stop May’s Imminent Brexit-Betrayal, Will Not Work

As a strategy specifically to stop Theresa May’s & her Vichy-Conservatives’ now arguably imminent betrayal of Brexit, implicit in her refusal to budge from her discredited Chequers Plan, ‘Just Vote UKIP’ on its own sadly isn’t going to work 

Note: this is the longer (and updated) version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 17th August 2018

A number of the responses to my The Conservative Woman Saturday Essay of 11th August, titled ‘How to Resist the Remainers’, appeared to find my suggestions for how a peaceful, legal, non-violent mass civic resistance might confront and hopefully thwart the May government’s impending probable dilution, if not outright abandonment, of Brexit somewhat too robust and risky for their taste.

And to think, moreover, that all that was required to stop such a betrayal in its tracks would be to start, resume, or continue, voting UKIP, or even merely threaten to do so.

Poster I'm Voting UKIP

The question of which great democratic advances have ever been achieved, or what anti-democratic obstacles to them have ever been surmounted, without anyone taking any risks whatsoever, is a moot point, but one perhaps to be re-visited later. But, as a strategy specifically for preventing what is arguably a now imminent Brexit adulteration at best and betrayal at worst, I’m afraid that ‘Just Vote UKIP’ doesn’t cut it.

That isn’t an overall condemnation of UKIP or its members and supporters per se, although there certainly are some specific criticisms which can be levelled at it, and are made below. But it is an observation that the both the electoral timetable, and current opinion polling, strongly suggest that, as a strategy whose aim is to stop May’s likely upcoming Brexit-betrayal, then it is, regrettably, probably doomed to failure.              

In the first place, ‘Just Vote UKIP’ in what? And when? Let’s consider the electoral timetable. 

The earliest upcoming UK elections are the next UK local government elections, due to be held on 2nd May 2019: unless the Article 50 period is extended, that is approximately 5 weeks after 29th March, the date on which the UK will have, albeit probably more in appearance than in substance, nominally left the EU.

What would be the argument to persuade non-activists or non-members that there was any point in voting UKIP? And even if there was such an argument, how effective would it be? In the 2018 local elections, the party lost no fewer than 123 of its 126 councillors: 2019’s are in more metropolitan-type areas, where its appeal, rightly or wrongly, is even less. Comparatively-speaking, its local government base, at 125 councillors out of a total of over 20,000, is minimal.

The next European Parliament elections are from 23rd to 26th May 2019: again, unless the Article 50 period is extended, approximately two months after the 29th March exit date. Even with a nominal-only Brexit on that date, the UK will no longer be sending MEPs to the European Parliament, and so will not even participate. The memories of 2014’s victory, where UKIP secured 27 percent of the vote and more than doubled its seats to 24, are no guide to the future.

If (admittedly a big ‘if’) May survives as Prime Minister, even with a small majority thanks to the Democratic Unionist Party, the next General Election is not due until 5th May 2022, which will be four years after the projected Brexit date.

We are already now seeing polling reports suggesting ordinary voters on both sides of the Leave-Remain divide are bored with Brexit, just two years after the Referendum, and before it has even happened. What appeal and chance of success would UKIP have some four years after the actual Brexit, even a nominal one?       

Although dissatisfaction with May’s Soft-Remain, Brexit-In-Name-Only Chequers Plan is thought to be a contributor to the recent boost in membership, the party is currently standing at an average of just 6 per cent in the polls

Britain Elects to July 2018

Under First-Past-The-Post, this is far too low to make an impact: in the 2015 General Election, UKIP captured 3.9 million votes and 13 per cent of the total vote, but still gained only two seats, both of which have since been lost.

In the second place, vote for whom? Consider the recent leadership history.

At TCW, I have previously criticised Nigel Farage for leaving the field of battle too early, but since his 2016 departure, UKIP has in effect wasted the last two years. It has gone through a credible leader and deputy leader in Diane James and Suzanne Evans, both seen off by the residual Continuity-Farageistes, and two utter clowns in firstly, Paul Nuttall, and secondly, Henry Bolton, before stabilising to an extent under the current leadership of Gerard Batten.

But Batten’s term of office comes to an end, intriguingly, around the time of Britain’s projected exit date of 29th March 2019, and Farage is hinting at a return. Interestingly, elements within UKIP are reported to be less than wholly enthusiastic at the prospect.

So for whom would anyone starting or re-considering voting UKIP actually be voting?

Moreover, UKIP’s complement of MEPs has thinned out since its 2014 high-water mark due to a couple of expulsions and several resignations: although it does retain some very good MEPs, activists and members, notably Margot Parker, Roger Helmer, and David Kurten, the appeal of a party which has unfortunately managed to alienate and drive away plausible, articulate and media-friendly people like Suzanne Evans and Steven Woolfe is likely to be limited.

To be fair, there is one scenario in which one could imagine the ‘Just Vote UKIP’ strategy having a chance of success. But it would require all of the following to come to fruition:

  1. Brexit to be deferred or cancelled;
  2. the majority of the ‘Conservative’ Party to accept that without demur;
  3. a mass defection of both former UKIP-to-Tory movers and always-Conservative Brexiteers to UKIP;
  4. an electoral system less stacked against it; and
  5. a media less biased against its core policy.

The prospect of a ‘Just vote UKIP to stop a Brexit betrayal’ strategy having to rely on Brexit being actually stopped or betrayed, in order to stand even a chance of success, does, I suppose, have a certain bleak irony about it.

But given the several discrete steps that it would require, it looks one hell of a risk to take for people apparently deterred from any form of peaceful, legal, non-violent mass civic resistance by the risk, inconvenience, and temporary relinquishment of online consumerism, which that might allegedly entail.

Update / Postscript

Having now had more time to review the below-the-line comments to the original article at The Conservative Woman, three of the generic memes which seem to re-occur throughout a number of them warrant a response:

“typical Tory comment / keep on voting Tory then”

Presumably, out of my fifteen or so TCW articles so far in 2018, the eight at least which have fiercely criticised May’s Vichy-‘Conservatives’ in general and her duplicitous Soft-Remain Brexit-In-Name-Only in particular, the two of them which specifically called for her to be ousted and replaced with a committed Brexiteer, and the one which even explicitly advocated the Party’s demise, have been ignored.

“you’re offering no solutions, you’re just sneering at UKIP

In what way does saying that the party retains some very good people, but observing factually that the combination of an adverse electoral timetable and its current opinion-polls standing at present limit its potential as a preventer of the Brexit-betrayal which is imminent, constitute ‘sneering at UKIP’?

“but it was only the threat of UKIP that made Cameron to hold the EU Referendum”

Very probably, but that was when it was polling at a constant 11-12%, and later, had won the 2014 European Parliament election with 24 MEPs and 27 per cent of the vote. Under First-Part-The-Post, parties polling at around 6 per cent do not represent a threat – just ask the Greens.

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From Major to Minor, or even Minnow

The continuing reminders of former Prime Minister John Major’s hypocrisy and duplicity over Brexit justify an airing of one of the most damning, yet accurate, verdicts on him from a political historian

One of the benefits of social-media in politics is how it enables we amateur commentators, not only not to have to rely on, but also to by-pass, the legacy media when it comes to pointing out the hypocrisy of politicians making utterances completely at variance with what they’ve asserted on previous occasions.

One such instance occurred on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show last Sunday, 22nd July. Marr ‘interviewed’ (if a relatively soft-pedal invitation to spout his views more or less unchallenged can be dignified with that word) former Prime Minister John Major, transparently to give him an opportunity to re-iterate his call for a second EU Referendum.

Fortunately, and because, as the cliché goes, ‘the internet never forgets’, this was soon being contrasted with Major’s 20th December 2015 appearance on the same programme, when he said this (from 04:20 onwards):

‘I think it’s a long-term decision. I mean, the argument we can have a referendum, say no, then go back and re-negotiate. is just a fallacy. If we come out, we are out.  That’s it. It’s not politically-credible to go back and say ‘we’ve re-considered’, or ‘let’s have another referendum’. If we vote to stay out, then we are out, and we will have to get on with it.’ 

The earlier interview was widely shared on social-media, as of course was the entirely justified mockery, derision and disgust. But it occurred to me that it might be useful for others to see how a serious political historian judged the hapless Major in retrospect.

In Andrew Roberts’ ‘A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900‘, published in 2006, he summed up Major thus, a damning verdict which, to my mind, has rarely been bettered:

“John Major’s manifest failure to grow into the role of prime minister was remarkable, indeed almost unprecedented. Other premiers have acquired at least a patina of charisma after seven years in power, but not him.

Major only became prime minister because, after the fall of Mrs Thatcher, he was neither the ultra-liberal Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, nor her political assassin, Michael Heseltine.

Thatcher, who had wildly over-promoted Major to Chancellor of the Exchequer, wrongly believed him to be the heir to her ideological legacy. Very soon after securing him victory, the Thatcherites discovered their mistake.

Major spoke of wanting Britain to be ‘at the heart of Europe’, without explaining what in practice this meant. Later, he was recorded calling the three euro-sceptics in his Cabinet ‘bastards’ and ruined his nice-neighbour image by being caught on tape saying, ‘I’m going to fucking crucify the Right.’ In one sentence he thus managed to swear, blaspheme, split an infinitive and make a promise he could not keep.

With only the limited vision of a Party apparatchik – he was a Party Whip in the House of Commons before becoming a minister – Major was unable to win the support of even two-thirds of his Parliamentary Party when his Cabinet colleague John Redwood stood against him for the Party leadership in the summer of 1995.

Redwood adopted the slogan ‘No Change, No Chance’, which was proved to be prescient by the 1997 election. Over issues such as the citizen’s charter; a hotline to complain about motorway cones; surrenders over qualified majority voting in Europe  and the EU working time directive; and much else, especially over Bosnia, Major was shown to be a figure of pathos.

One area where Major was thought to be entirely personally innocent of the disasters which struck his ministry was over ‘sleaze’. Of course, had anyone known that Major had earlier been conducting an affair with one of his fellow ministers, Edwina Currie, (fortuitously) while his wife was away in his Huntingdonshire constituency, he would have been laughed out of office.

Major weakened himself in November 1994 when he withdrew the Party Whip from eight Conservative MPs over the European issue, something that Neville Chamberlain never did to opponents of appeasement in the Thirties and which also never happened to the Suez rebels of 1956.

By this gross act of intolerance, against patriots whose only concern was the protection of British sovereignty, he showed how at heart he was a Conservative hack politician and essentially unfit for high office, let alone the premiership of the United Kingdom.”

The 10 years since publication haven’t in my view diminished the validity and accuracy of that judgement by one iota.  If anything, they’ve enhanced it. And Theresa May is being compared unfavourably with him. The mind boggles.

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Boris’ Resignation Speech: Did He Flunk It? No, He Didn’t

Boris Johnson’s subtle resignation statement wisely avoided what would have been a counter-productive personal attack on Theresa May’s leadership, in favour of a forensic filleting of her Brexit negotiation policy, a tactic likely to prove more successful in the long run

Note: this is the (updated) version of one of the two contrasting arguments set out in an article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 20th July 2018

Former Foreign Secretary Boris’ Johnson’s ‘resignation speech’ (technically, his post-resignation Personal Statement made with the permission of The Speaker) delivered in the House of Commons on the afternoon of Wednesday 18th July, was actually quite clever.Boris resignation speech 18 July 2018

Had he modelled it on Geoffrey Howe’s fabled 1990 equivalent on Margaret Thatcher, mounting a personal attack on Theresa May culminating in an explicit demand for either her resignation or a challenge to her leadership, it would almost certainly have backfired, and been counter-productive.

First, it would have too easy for May’s defenders and the Tory-Remainer MP majority to dismiss it as mere petty revenge for his own thwarted 2016 leadership bid, and motivated purely by personal pique and ambition.

Second, Boris recognises the political realities of that current Remainer-dominated Tory Parliamentary arithmetic. On a direct challenge, via 48 letters to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee expressing ‘No Confidence’ in May, leading to an internal ballot among MPs, she’d probably win and survive, possibly even strengthened.

Graham Brady Chair 1922 Committee v2

The Tories may justifiably be known as ‘the stupid party’, but not suicidal: its MPs aren’t going to risk a leadership change causing a general election in which many of them would lose their seats.

Moreover, under the Tories’ election rules, if May won, she’d be secure for another year. And that would mean goodbye to any hopes of replacing her Soft-Remain (non)-Brexit with one more aligned, not only with her January 2017 Lancaster House and March 2018 Mansion House speeches respectively, but also with the clean-Brexit which 17.4 million people clearly voted for.

Third, there isn’t a figure waiting impatiently in the wings and sharpening the dagger in gleeful anticipation of wielding it, unlike the odious Europhile Heseltine in 1990. Rees-Mogg, arguably the obvious contender, has been scrupulously polite, both about May and also (albeit unconvincingly) about her openness to persuasion that she needs to change course.

Instead, Boris praised May fulsomely for the post-Brexit vision which she had articulated in her Lancaster House speech and again in her later Mansion House speech, particularly the commitment to leave both the Customs Union and Single Market, and especially her assertion that No-Deal was better than a bad deal.

May Mansion House March 2018

The potentially-lethal rapier to the heart of her leadership came as he then went on to note regretfully, using her own words, the myriad ways in which that vision had, since then  – impliedly because of May’s own inherent lack of personal commitment to Brexit, undue reliance on less-than-impartial advisers, excess caution, political timidity and lack of ambition – been progressively weakened and/or abandoned into the subservient vassal-statehood proposed in the egregious Chequers Deal, which he accurately summarised as a ‘miserable, permanent, Limbo’.

The effect was metaphorically to put the May-Robbins Soft-Remain (non)-Brexit Chequers Plan through the shredder, cut up the strips, and then burn the pieces.

There was, Boris concluded, still time to repudiate this misguided approach, and salvage a proper Brexit. In other words, pleading specifically for a change of the policy, rather than a change of its executant.

Astutely, that still leaves room for Boris, or another, to revert to the personal if and when, as she undoubtedly will, May obstinately refuses to budge and ploughs on regardless with the Chequers Deal (or worse, because the Parliamentary votes of Monday 16th and Tuesday 17th July have effectively rendered it dead on arrival on Brussels).

The speech placed the lid on top of May’s (political) coffin, but didn’t start to to screw it down. The unmistakeable message was: she could still climb out of it. If, that is, she wants to.

Boris, I suspect, also recognises that, given the adverse Tory Parliamentary arithmetic, it’s the burgeoning Tory grassroots anger that’s likely to unseat May and force her to resign, obviating a direct leadership challenge and a vote solely among majority May-supporting Tory MPs. He is immensely popular with the grassroots, too, which May, putting it mildly, is not, so his speech might well motivate them to intensify their efforts.

I’m not a huge fan of Boris’: he’s a dilettante, a gadfly, and prone to indiscretions. But when he decides to be serious, and he means it, when his personal interest aligns with the country’s, he can be  formidable, even statesmanlike. Yesterday was one such instance.

Fortune favours the brave, but not necessarily the reckless. Had Boris just gone straight for the jugular, it wouldn’t have worked. As it is, a warning shot has been fired close across May’s bows, but the guns are still shotted, primed and aimed.

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The Overpowering Stench of Treachery

The sheer scale and level, exposed by the past week’s revelations, of Theresa May’s deceit and double-dealing on Brexit have created an overwhelming miasma of perfidy that now envelops her, her Government, and her Party

Note: this is the longer (and updated) version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 18th July 2018.

If there was already a whiff of treachery surrounding Theresa May’s Machiavellian double-dealing revealed in her Soft-Remain (non)-‘Brexit’ plan sprung on her Cabinet at Chequers on Friday 6th July, then the past week has transformed it into nothing short of an overwhelming stench.

On Thursday 12th July, it emerged that May had not, as she claimed, merely ‘shown’ her plan to German Chancellor Angela Merkel: as many had suspected, correctly as it turned out, it had actually been submitted for approval. At the Chequers ‘summit’, the now-resigned former Brexit Secretary David Davis was, reportedly, told by May that her plan could not be changed, because ‘I have already cleared it with Angela Merkel’.

What an admission. Britain’s head of government requesting approval of her plan for Brexit, (if the ‘Brexit’ label can any longer be accurately applied to it all) before its disclosure even to her own Cabinet, from a foreign leader who, if not an enemy, must certainly be regarded as an adversary.

2018.07.12 Me Theresa Chamberlain Betrayal in our timeWas May really so naïve as to imagine that its content would not immediately be relayed to Michel Barnier and the EU’s negotiating team? If so, that surely beggars belief. Several less than flattering comparisons with Chamberlain’s 1938-1939 undue deference to Hitler inevitably followed, but were hardly excessive. May’s No. 10 Downing Street team reacted by issuing an (unconvincing) denial of the words allegedly used to Davis, but, tellingly, not of their substance.

Then, late on Saturday 14th July, came the bombshell. Former (and also-resigned) Minister of State at the Brexit Department, Steve Baker, revealed the covert, cloak-and-dagger operation, mounted by 10 Downing Street and presided over by May, not only deliberately to foil a Brexit which would fulfil the pledges of May’s 2017 General Election Manifesto and her Lancaster House and Florence speeches, so as to engineer as a substitute for it the Soft-Remain plan presented to the Chequers ‘summit’ as an unalterable fait-accompli, but also secretly to use the Brexit Department’s functions and output as deception and camouflage to fool Ministers, MPs and the public into believing that a genuine Brexit was being pursued.

Baker’s quotes were, and are, political dynamite, and almost defy belief:

An establishment elite, who never accepted the fundamental right of the public to choose democratically their institutions, are working towards overturning them.’

‘The Brexit Department was effectively a Potemkin structure designed to distract from what the Cabinet Office Europe Unit was doing for the Prime Minister’

May had willingly deceived not just us, the voting public, but even her own Ministers and MPs. She mobilised them to defeat the Lords’ Brexit-wrecking amendments in the House of Commons over the past few weeks, so as to preserve the façade of a plausible-sounding Brexit. At the same time, she was presiding over a secret plot cynically to deceive and exploit her own Brexit Department as a camouflage to conceal her Cabinet Office Europe Unit’s backstairs operation to procure her preferred Soft-Remain (non)-Brexit, in collusion with the EU negotiators.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see why the Eurocrats refused to negotiate with us on the basis of May’s fabled ‘Red Lines’, if they were at the same time being privately sounded out on what became the Chequers Deal. The ineradicable suspicion is that Brussels was being secretly assured all the time that our ‘official’ negotiating stance was mere theatre for the consumption of the gullible masses, and that the UK would accept whatever crumbs were chosen to be dropped from the Brussels table, at whatever cost.

Almost simultaneously, from sources close to Airbus, came allegations that May’s arch-Remainer inner circle had manipulated it into issuing, in the week preceding the Chequers ‘summit’, its much-publicised dire warnings about the dangers for jobs and exports of a No-Deal Brexit.

However, this commentary, by someone with the technical knowledge to know, suggests that the reality is rather more prosaic and long-term, and that subordinating the commercial imperatives of aircraft manufacturing to fulfilling the short-term expediencies of politicians with an agenda isn’t always the wisest course.

Whatever its effect, Airbus’ ‘welcome’ anti-Brexit contribution had, it was said, been agreed after discussions with the Government – presumably signifying Business Secretary and arch-Remainer Greg Clark having been not merely the willing mouthpiece of pro-Brussels, crony-corporatist big-business, but also its helpful script-writer too.

That, in the midst of all this, both Business Minister Andrew Griffiths’ forced resignation after sending over 2,000 ‘lewd’ texts to two female constituents, and the Government awarding a £2billion RAF contract, not to its compliant partner-in-deception Airbus, but to Boeing, passed almost without comment, spoke volumes.

Political observers were still trying to digest the Baker revelations when May herself appeared on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 15th July: though not before claiming, somewhat incredibly in The Mail On Sunday that she was ‘fighting for the Brexit that the British people voted for’, but later contradicting herself by issuing her ‘Back my Brexit, or I’ll abandon any Brexit’ threat.  How the latter was meant to assist the former was unclear.

Predictably, May’s interview with Andrew Marr did not go well. It culminated in what May obviously intended to be the takeaway soundbite, but which backfired spectacularly. Her “People may have voted with their hearts, but I have to be hard-headed” remark successfully managed to disparage 17.4 million Leave voters by condescendingly portraying them as merely un-thinking and emotion-driven.

It emerged later that day that, as if No 10 threatening dissenting Ministers with a walk home from Chequers on Friday 6th July wasn’t petty enough,  Conservative Central Office was now apparently contemplating threatening to withhold centrally-disbursed funds from Brexiteer Tory MPs.

2018.07.16 Strafford Tory threats de-fund Brexiteer MPsAlthough, if true, its enthusiasm for this may be tempered by the prospect of some of the £4million loans extended to it from constituency associations being recalled and used locally to support Brexiteer MPs, it did tend to show May’s claque behaving more like the henchmen of a paranoid Mafia boss than the office of the Prime Minister in a democracy.

The morning of Monday 16th July brought what is arguably the next phase of the Remainer-Elite’s Project Overturn Referendum, Justine Greening’s proposal for a second vote on  Brexit. Which is curious, to say the least, given her January 2017 assertion that, although she was a pro-Remain campaigner and voter, nevertheless ‘we have to respect the overall democratic result.’

Greening re 2nd Ref via Change Britain

If incredulous initial observations, that this was less likely to be an original idea conceived by Ms Greening, hitherto most noted for proposing that individuals be empowered to change their gender merely by ticking a box on an official government form, than a pre-planned, scripted, intervention using her as the designated mouthpiece, may have been merely churlish, the subsequent trenchant criticism and the  widespread derision heaped on her suggested Referendum question – two Leave options to split the Leave vote, but only one option for Remain – was more than justified.

Justine Greening's 2nd referendum planThe afternoon of Monday 16th July saw May make a statement to the House of Commons on the previous weekend’s NATO summit. Standing at the Despatch Box, and with a completely straight face, she criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin for ‘undermining democracy’. Not for the first time, she gave the impression that her brain simply does not connect her mouth with her memory.

The House then debated the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill. After (rightly, but, predictably, for the wrong reasons) May had accepted four amendments tabled by Brexiteers of the backbench European Research Group, the consequences of which would be effectively to render May’s Soft-Remain (non)-Brexit Plan unacceptable to the EU, the most die-hard Tory-Remainer MPs retaliated by actually voting with Labour, the Liberal-Democrats and the SNP, against the Government trying to pursue the Ultra-Soft Brexit they claim to want.

We thus saw alleged ‘Conservatives’, plotting with Leftists to prevent the Government honouring the very Manifesto commitment on which those same ‘Conservatives’ had been content to stand for election and be elected, a mere 13 months ago.

On the morning of Tuesday 17th July, those same die-hard Tory-Remainer MPs were reported to again be aiming to defeat their own Remainer-dominated Government in further debate on the Cross-Border trade Bill that evening. Despite knowing full well that, should they succeed in defeating the Government, that could precipitate a General  Election whose outcome was likely to be a Corbyn-led Government, no fewer than 12 of them voted with Labour and other Leftist parties in a way that reflected starkly their anti-Brexit recalcitrance and desire to see it halted it in its tracks, whatever the cost to their Party.

The 12 Remainer rebels

They failed. Thanks to 5 brave Labour-Brexiteers defying their Party and voting with the Government, not to ‘support the Tories’ but to uphold democracy, the Government won the vote by 307 votes to 301. This almost certainly means that the May-Robbins Soft-Remain (non)-Brexit Plan will be dead on arrival in Brussels, containing provisions that the EU could probably never accept.

However whether a Prime Minister, who by now evidently lacked the authority even to persuade MPs to award themselves five extra days’ paid holiday by bringing Parliament’s Summer Recess forward, would have even noticed is in itself debatable.

To an extent, the Greening proposal and the Parliamentary antics of the die-hard Tory-Remainer MPs are peripheral to the reek of deliberate betrayal now pervading the May Administration and the upper reaches of the Conservative Party. But they are nevertheless an integral part of it.

With the possible, and even then disputable, exception of Blair on Iraq, I personally cannot recall in recent political history an example of a Prime Minister practising sheer anti-democratic duplicity and deception on a level and scale equivalent to what has been revealed about May in the past week.

While pretending to be implementing the democratically-expressed wishes of the British electorate, she has in fact been systematically deceiving her own Cabinet, Ministers, MPs, activists, voters, and the public, in order to manifest the wishes of a small coterie which clearly regards both the demos and the institution of democracy with undisguised contempt, and as something to be ignored, if not covertly circumvented, if it delivers an outcome uncongenial to them.

Moreover, the Party that she nominally – and I use the word advisedly – leads cannot escape the charge of complicity in her perfidy. Which other Ministers were in on the plot? Who knew what, and when? At the very least, that the majority of its MPs, even now, support her desire to mute if not negate the largest mandate for one specific policy in British political history leave them open to that charge.

Were her chicanery and double-dealing, and their own charlatanry, restricted to matters of domestic politics, they might, though still egregious, evade the ultimate accusation of treachery. But they are not. They prejudice and endanger, not only the enduring public consent for our constitutional settlement and the continuing validity of our democracy, but also the nature of our relationship with a foreign power who, though it may not be an enemy, is arguably an adversary and certainly not, in this matter, a friend. It is this latter element which surely makes the accusation of treachery tenable.

The present ‘Conservative’ Party, at least in its higher echelons of command, has been exposed this past week as a morally-bankrupt cesspit of political putrefaction, a rotting, decaying husk. In another, perhaps better, time, a Prime Minister accused of what Theresa May now, with justification, stands accused of, would have been defenestrated within days, if not hours. That she is allowed to cling insecurely to office, incompetent and ineffective in everything she does except calculated betrayal, is the visible manifestation of the overpowering stench of treachery that envelops her and her Party.

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Who Will Rid Us Of This Most Perfidious Prime Minister?

The incipient revolt by the Conservative Party’s grassroots against Theresa May’s Soft-Remain (Non)-Brexit plans looks likely to prove the most successful and expeditious route to bringing about her resignation 

Note: this is the longer (and updated) version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 13th July 2018.

Following the full extent of Theresa May’s Machiavellian double-dealing (or betrayal, even treachery, if you prefer) over her Remain-By-Any-Other-Name plans for Brexit being revealed, the reaction, from Leave-supporting Conservative MPs, activists and commentators alike, has been a flood of near-unanimous condemnation and outrage.

After Monday 9th July’s high-profile resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson, more have followed. Two deputy party-chairmen, both MPs, have resigned, with one, Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, openly condemning May’s principal (and wholly-trusted to the point of gullibility) No 10 Brexit advisers as ‘a small cabal which holds Brexiteers in contempt’.

At least one Leave-voting constituency is already stated to be initiating the de-selection of its Remain- voting Tory MP. The Daily Telegraph’s letters editor reports a level of reader anger not seen since the 2009 expenses scandal broke. Party constituency associations across the country report massive grassroots unrest and a deluge of membership cancellations, accompanied by vows never to vote Conservative ever again, at least while May remains leader, and physically-destroyed membership cards.

The polling numbers are just horrendous, not only bad for the Tories, but even worse for May personally.

YouGov 1o-11Jul2018 Leave voters abandoning May in droves

By large majorities, people think May’s (non)-Brexit is both bad for Britain and doesn’t respect the Referendum result. A huge 75% think May’s government is handling Brexit badly. 43% think May should go, now.  Labour is back in a 2% poll lead. Were it led by a pro proper-Brexit centre-Left moderate, instead of a 1970s-throwback hard-Left socialist, I suspect its lead would be into double-digits.

Con vs Lab voting intentions, post May Chequers surrender

What irony: May, desperate to dilute Brexit to near-invisibility to appease her Remainer-dominated MPs and Parliament, in part at least from a paranoid fear of ushering in a Corbyn government, is thereby actually making Corbyn government more likely. Truly, she is a Midas in reverse, rapidly morphing into a political Miss Havisham.

So, apart from the sadly-large claque of loyalist Cameroon-Blairite-Remainer MPs – of whom more later, because their role will be crucial – and irreconcilably die-hard Europhile Party members, it seems reasonable to assume that her immediate defenestration is the clear default wish. How that can be procured, however, is less clear.

People are calling for a “vote of (presumably No) confidence”. But this is an ambiguous phrase. Do they mean internally – the submission of enough Conservative MPs’ letters to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee to trigger a leadership election – or a Vote of No Confidence debate in the Commons, which, if carried, would mean the fall of the Government and precipitate an immediate General Election, inevitably putting Brexit on hold?

Take initially the internal process, governed by the Party’s election rules. The submission to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee of 48 letters by Tory MPs saying they have no confidence in May would trigger a fresh leadership election. But this is fraught with real and potential obstacles.

Graham Brady Chair 1922 Committee v2

First, the Party Whips are reportedly pressuring disaffected MPs to refrain from submitting letters, or even withdraw any already submitted, either citing the usual bogeyman of “letting Corbyn into No 10”, or hinting they’d stand a better chance of removing May if, as expected, further concessions are made to Brussels.

Second, May has already indicated that she would contest a fresh leadership election. Whether this is attributable to merely the tin-eared stubbornness and lack of sensitivity for which she is rightly infamous, or something altogether darker, an anti-democratic, Euro-fanatical desire to have Britain not leave the EU in any meaningful sense, is debatable.

Third, given the experience of 2016, it is likely that the Remainer-majority Parliamentary party would do anything to prevent the contest going out to the membership to elect a pro proper-Brexit leader, because that a Remainer could win a whole-membership ballot in the current fractious anti-May mood seems inconceivable.

Fourth, with an estimated 176 Remain-voting Tory MPs, against an estimated 141 Leave-voters, and with the pro proper-Brexit vote possibly split between two or more candidates, she might actually win quite comfortably, even with MPs for marginal constituencies fearing for their seats. If she won so decisively, we’d arguably be even worse off than we are now.

Slightly better, but not much, would be if (assuming some honourable Remain-voting MPs nevertheless think the Referendum result must be respected, and May won’t) she won narrowly enough to win, but also narrowly enough to make her a lame-duck leader demonstrably unwanted by as much as 43% of her party.

In either case we’d be stuck with her: and in view of the revelations of the past week, Heaven only knows what further damage she could do, to both democracy and Brexit.

That takes us to the whole-Parliament option, a Vote of No Confidence on the floor of the Commons. But that looks even less likely to unseat May. The DUP would probably continue to support the May government, and, as Michael Mossbacher points out in the current issue of Standpoint, even Unreconciled Continuity-Remainers like Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry have made it clear they would traipse through the Government lobby to defeat the No-Confidence vote. And to initiate such a vote, only to lose it, would do Corbyn no good, either.

So we’re back to the grassroots as the surest method of ending May’s disastrous Premiership and replacing her with a genuine Brexiteer Prime Minister and Cabinet. It’s obvious that she won’t go of her own accord, and clear that an internal leadership election, restricted to MPs mainly sympathetic to her, in contrast to the membership, might even strengthen her: albeit at huge risk to the Tories’ future electoral prospects, but which, given her now-apparent Euro-deference, evidently doesn’t trouble her unduly.

So she has to be forced to resign and not re-stand. And it’s out there in the country that the anger with May, the resolution never to vote for her, or even the Tories, ever again, unless the Brexit for which 17.4 million people clearly voted is delivered, is most intense, even palpable. Take just one example, from Dorset.

wallce dorset 1 & 2 comp

It’s there that the Conservatives’ local organisation, already rickety, can be near-wrecked, both financially and operationally, by withdrawal of support, subscriptions, and participation. It’s there that pressure can be brought to bear on individual Tory MPs that, unless they persuade her to resign, now, their defeat and subsequent unemployment come the next election is guaranteed.

Go to it. There’s little to lose, and everything to gain.

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This Just Got A Lot Bigger Than Brexit

The May Government’s apparent determination to pursue only the softest of Soft-Brexits, by whatever means and at whatever cost, has produced a quasi-constitutional crisis of democracy that is far bigger than Brexit itself

Note: this is the long (and updated) version of the article first published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 10th July 2018.

A dramatic and febrile three days in the wake of the virtual imposition, including via the use of threats almost comical in their puerile pettiness, by an embattled but stubbornly-authoritarian Theresa May of her Brexit proposals at the Cabinet’s Chequers so-called Brexit “summit” on Friday 6th July, culminated on the afternoon of Monday 9th July in the resignation of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, following those of Brexit Department Secretary David Davis and Minister of State Steve Baker respectively, late on the evening of Sunday 8th July.

May has no right to feel aggrieved, or even surprised. First, her proposed negotiating position, about as far removed from her 2017 manifesto promises and previous negotiating pledges as chalk from cheese, were rightly labelled ‘Remain-By-Any-Other-Name’ and ‘Brexit-In-Name-Only’, and lacerated by multiple commentators for their disingenuousness and lack of ambition, their undue deference to Remainer intransigence and Brussels diktats alike, and even their downright mendacity. 

Foremost among these, though, was a devastating memorandum from Lawyers For Britain’s Martin Howe QC, exposing how, in contrast to the claims advanced implausibly by her sycophantic Remainer colleagues, May’s proposals would lead directly to a worst-of-all-worlds Black-Hole Brexit with Britain stuck permanently as a rule-taking vassal-state in the enduring grip of the EU’s legal and regulatory maw. 

On Sunday 8th July’s BBC Sunday Politics, presenter Sarah Smith extracted from Conservative Party Deputy Chairman James Cleverly an admission that, in contrast to what had hitherto been spun, the UK would automatically adopt any new EU rules, despite having no say over devising them, unless a (Remainer-dominated, remember) Parliament actually decided not to. Hardly the claimed “taking back control of our laws”.

Then it all got much worse. It emerged that May had  “shown” (or submitted for approval?) her Brexit proposals to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, before their disclosure even to Cabinet, ignoring every convention of collective Cabinet government. She was duly excoriated, both for a grave breach of constitutional protocol, as well as a characteristically appalling lack of judgement.

This was then followed by the additional revelation that her No. 10 Chief of Staff, Gavin Barwell and her staunchly anti-Brexit, pro-EU, éminence-grise Olly Robbins had seemingly been working on her ultra-soft Brexit plan, in secret, not even confiding in the Cabinet, apparently for months.

Fuel was added to the fire which by now was well beyond merely smouldering, by both the unequivocally-critical terms of David Davis’ utterly-damning resignation letter – 

“. .the inevitable consequence of the proposed policies will be to make the supposed control by Parliament illusory rather than real. . “

“The ‘common rule book’ policy hands large swathes of our economy to the EU”

and the blatant lie in May’s point 2 – “[we are] ending free movement” – of her reply

One type of free movement may be being cosmetically “ended”, but only to be replaced by a different kind of free movement: and May refuses even to guarantee not to discriminate against non-EU nationals in its application.

Speculation was rife on the morning of Monday 9th July that May would use the opportunity presented by the Davis and Baker resignations to abolish the Brexit department completely, and fold it into the Cabinet Office, to be oversighted by none other than Robbins. This truly alarming prospect turned out not so far to be true: but that it was regarded as a strong possibility at all surely speaks volumes.

Next on that same Monday morning came the news that May’s Chief of Staff, the former Tory MP Gavin Barwell noted chiefly for his labelling Brexit ‘the politics of hate’, was to brief Labour, Liberal-Democrat and SNP MPs on her (Non)-Brexit ‘Brexit’ plans. Although subsequently shelved, the implication of this was momentous, and clear: uber-reluctant Brexiteer May, prepared to solicit the votes of the pro-Remain Opposition parties in order to get her (Non)-Brexit plans through Parliament, against both her own backbenchers trying to hold her to her manifesto commitments, and the votes of 17.4 million people.

In my opinion, the scaremongering by the likes of Airbus and BMW of the previous week, with Business Secretary and arch-Remainer Greg Clark acting as the willing mouthpiece of pro-Brussels, crony-corporatist big-business, is indelibly linked to this. Who knows what donations have been threatened to be withheld unless Brexit is effectively killed off, or promised if it is?  

It’s now abundantly clear that we have a political class that is resolutely determined, almost at any price, not to enact the instruction given to it by the British electorate, and is led by a Prime Minister evidently prepared to destroy her own party & even democracy itself, in order to perpetuate Britain’s subservience to the anti-democratic supranational EU. Always more Miliband-ite than even Blairite, May’s mask has finally slipped.

This means that the quasi-constitutional crisis we now face is greater than the extant issue. This just got a lot bigger than Brexit. It’s about nothing less than whether we’re a functioning citizens’ democracy at all, or unwilling subjects of an unaccountable apparatchik-elite pursuing its own agenda in defiance of, if not actually against, the people.

We just have to win this fight, and now in a much wider sense than merely holding a reluctant or even intransigently-defiant government to the referendum verdict it promised to implement, or the manifesto pledge on which it stood for election.

It’s now about so much more than Brexit. We can’t afford to lose. Because if we do, a triumphalist and overwhelmingly Remainer Left-‘Liberal’ Elite Oligarchy, who dominate Britain’s political, media, academic and cultural classes and thus control virtually every institution of public life, are likely to try and wreak a terrible revenge on the ordinary people of this country.

We saw a taste of it in their furious reaction to the Referendum result, and about which I’ve previously written at TCW. I suspect it would intensify. So nearly thwarted, via the near-loss of what they revere as axiomatic, and moreover to what they contemptuously regard as a backward, racist, xenophobic, unsophisticated, uneducated, politically-illegitimate rabble, they would probably redouble their efforts to foist EU rules, uncontrolled mass immigration, progressive loss of civil liberties, multiculturalism and divisive identity-politics on us in greater measure for having had the temerity to rebel.

I can recall tweeting, just after 2016 EU Referendum, that pro-EU, ‘Liberal’-Elite, New-Class Establishment Oligarchy would not accept without a fight its defeat by the Demos, and especially on an issue as fundamental to its entire world-view as EU membership, and that we might well have to take to the streets, preferably and hopefully non-violently, to enforce the implementation of the Referendum result.

That prospect now feels closer than ever, and we may have no choice. To quote Thomas Paine: “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace”.

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