Thursday, 28 March 2019

When a Resignation is Not

So the coup went so far, to push Theresa May on to the cliff edge to let her wobble in the considerable wind and different gusts. She has offered to go if she gets her deal through, which also means she has offered to stay if she does not.

The first stage of the indicative votes have gone through, with a referendum to a deal and a customs union as having the best votes, but not sufficient. The possibility is the Prime Minister's deal coming into the list of options, and many that abstained might vote for it.

Jacob Rees-Mogg was against it, very strongly, and then reluctantly in favour of it, and now he is against it again because the Democratic Unionist Party are against. The DUP was never going to vote for it, and indeed will vote against it. This means the hardcore Tories will be joined by others, like Rees-Mogg, to still vote against it. That May has made her wobble to go from her own mouth means that Labour MPs are less likely to vote for it beyond the three if it facilitates installing a more exit the EU type Tory leader.

Although revoke got a limited support, the fact is that up against a no deal exit on the last days, many of those who rejected this may be forced to do it. There could also be a fatigue of stopping and reconsidering. Clarke's custom union proposition wasn't exactly his own preferred choice. He would revoke.

Theresa May was brought up in the Tory Party. Civil servants are minuting government meetings in Cabinet carefully because these refer not to the country so much as what is best for the Tory Party. When the big Public Inquiry comes into this appalling mess, they will want how they have been compromised by our third rate politicians to be on the record. Theresa May's whole basis for decision making has been based on the Tory Party. She was never able to take them on.

One thing that was fairly disgusting in last weekend's press leaks and attack on May from within Tory Party high levels was about a team of people ready to take Theresa May out of the Commons rapidly. This was supposed to be based on her running down mentally under all the stress. This was kicking the woman on something else: she has type 1 diabetes and a drop in blood sugar due to extended answering in the House of Commons could lead to confusion and ill health. This 'plan' for her rapid exit will have existed from the first day she became Prime Minister; it may well have existed when she was Home Secretary. But politics is a dirty game, and in generating a coup attempt the gutter can be visited.

This does not mean she has been an appalling Prime Minister. She has been the worst, if after Cameron. He party-first strategy, forever feeding the crocodiles, had been disastrous. Cameron gambled the country for the party, and she has continued to do the same.

She's likely to go anyway. It doesn't follow that an orderly leadership election follows, because she could indeed go to require interim leadership. Plus the Cabinet coup makers may need the interim leader to get ahead of an exit enthusiast. They abstained on these indicative votes as a stop-gap to making a decision about anything; but if the remainers walk out of the Cabinet then the leavers will indeed install their own.

Theresa May never believed in anything. She was a remainer on balance, but so was the Tory Party with the expectation of a narrow win for Cameron and then his fall. When the vote went the other way, the infighting arrived at her as last one standing, and so she declared that Brexit meant Brexit and they were going to make a success of it. But she has not. The reason she has hung on and hung on is because she still wanted to make a success of it - some how. But the cul-de-sac has left her with nowhere to go. She is still trying to hang on, to be sure.

Northern Ireland may not have its Stormont, but the UK hasn't had a fully functioning government now for a long time. The UK is much diminished abroad, and is almost falling in on itself at home. Services aren't working, problems are not being corrected, more people are living in poverty, and there is a real sense of hopelessness. Forget these unemployment figures: when they compare with 40 years ago they are not comparing like with like. Universal Credit is causing real pain and the DWP is in chaos itself as it trains staff for something that is not working. Many people are underemployed, many badly paid, and those relying on benefits are having a terrible time.

It may be - and I think it looks like this - that Theresa May needs to be pushed out of office. She hasn't said she will go, she is instead trying to make a bargain, but if the deal is still dead then she won't go. She needs to be pushed. They need an interim leader that becomes more flexible.

If Gove or Johnson, and indeed if a number of exit enthusiasts win the Tory leadership, it will definitely split. But MPs can see the options for the future, how two Tory candidates will go to its elderly membership, and a split can project forward easily. I'm expecting a few more now to come to The Independent Group and, quite possibly, a new pro-European Conservative Party forming as well.

The Independent Group had better get its skates on, because if a General Election comes soon it needs a name and a set of candidates and an agreement with the Liberal Democrats and Greens. The Liberal Democrats need a new leader rapidly as well. If revoke is to be serious beyond Scotland, these two parties have got to move and quickly.

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