Thursday, 16 May 2019

Why is Theresa May Introducing the Bill?

I am puzzled that no commentators seem to have understood what Theresa May is doing by introducing the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in early June. She knows there is not a cat in hell's chance of it passing, unless Labour bails her out, which is less and less likely due to differing political demands (Labour cannot be seen as facilitating a Tory exit from the European Union, the Tories cannot support a customs union arrangement) and the impending change of leadership that could rip up a deal.

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill is being introduced so that Theresa May can at least say, "I played my part - they did not pass it." Because May is so likely to resign soon regardless, there is no incentive for Tories to vote for it, in that she had said if the Withdrawal Agreement was passed she'd resign to give some incentive to vote for the thing.

Watching the programme, Brexit: Behind the Scenes, the other week, I was struck on just how inept was the British negotiating. The European Union negotiators saw the United Kingdom Parliament pass Article 50, and then no one turned up to negotiate for ages. When they did, the EU team had its negotiating position ready, but it was unclear what the British wanted. The government was fighting with itself. Eventually the British red lines led to a shaped Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration , which the UK Parliament then consistently failed to pass.

Sir Graham Brady and Tory 1922 Committee team met Theresa May for a "frank" discussion. They are supposed to be in the same party! It went on for one and a half hours to establish she will announce a process of her own resignation or the 1922 Committee will have to change its rules.

The context is appalling polling ahead of the European Parliament elections in one week, after all the delays and inept handling of the supposed withdrawal. In Britain we elect by a fixed party list, in Northern Ireland it is via single transferable vote - to better reflect ethnic sensitivities. Labour is also shrinking, on the basis that it has added to the delay and also is perceived to be uncertain in direction in its policy. The Brexit Party has eclipsed UKIP, and the Tories in self-disgust are sitting on their hands. Personally I am pleased that Change UK, after a series of cocked-up decisions, is becoming the UKIP equivalent and won't split the vote. The Liberal Democrats success in the local elections has stolen a march on Change UK. The fact is the Greens as remain will take socialist remain votes and the Liberal Democrats can take remain Conservative and remain moderate Labour votes (what Change UK was expecting to do). The Scottish Nationalist Party should benefit from Scotland being 'ignored' by the British Government (with its hefty remain vote) in all its inept dealings. Then we get something like a referendum before any confirmatory referendum to a deal. Let's wait a week to see how damaged are the Tories, how weakened is Labour, and how much the remain vote stacks against the leave vote.

I suspect that May has already factored in this vote, and simply doesn't care. She must enjoy being in the job, bizarrely, but if you look at photographs she has aged rapidly in these last three years. The Tories are being forced to push her out because she will not go. She would be gone by a challenge vote in December, but her political life will have run out before then.

She was never up top the job. She fell into it, but her record in the Home Office should have rung alarm bells. Her narrow perspective intransigence there led to the Windrush Scandal and hostile environment.

I suspect she is hanging on because she had no hinterland. Once she is gone she has nothing more to do. The Tory Party made her, formed her, and she fell into the top job when all others had stabbed each other in the front or had fallen by the wayside. Her "Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it" will be seen as utterly hollow, as reflected since by her never answering journalists' questions directly. She gives answers to another question, often multiple times. She gives no indication to her thinking as she takes a long time to make a decision. She is surrounded by third-rate politicians and has been able to carry on dealing the cards herself. The Cabinet should have taken them from her a long time ago, but did not.

So goodbye Theresa May and, at least, from your inept handling of this, we are still in the European Union. With good fortune, as politics moves on, we must just stay in and revoke Article 50, forcing the exiters to attempt to win a General Election - how it should be done. In the meantime, there are the EU Parliament elections coming up, and it is fortunate for me that the MEP I want to elect and function allies with the position I want to take in a substitute referendum of remain or leave. I will vote Liberal Democrat and hope leavers will do the same, or at least vote Green or SNP.

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