by John Ward
The early Christmas present you’ve all been waiting for: the complete print out and keep guide to Theresa May’s Long & Winding rock n roll Road Show to nowhere.
Theresa May has learned nothing from her General Election débacle. Strong and Stable as a mantra has been replaced by The only deal available that defends British jobs gives us back control of our borders and honours the 2016 Referendum. It’s longer, but none the wiser.
Its other flaw is in being completely false. As a threader here remarked yesterday, “She has negotiated a Withdrawal Agreement which is neither a withdrawal nor an agreement”. That is indeed true. But as ever, she is convinced that if she repeats it enough, people will come to believe in it.
If only I could be nicer about the rentagobs who disagree with her. I watched yesterday morning as Baron Astonish burbled on at Adam Boulton: it was the Baron’s best illustration yet that he is a man in need of mental help. He discussed six separate aspects of the Whadawedonext debate, and concluded for each, “This is the sole reason we are in this mess”. To be able to divide one into six and get one as the answer is as certain a sign as you’ll ever see of madness.
The equally bald but even more gobby bloke standing next to Admonish was not so much mad as muddled. He was, he insisted, a believer in democracy, and thus felt the Second Referendum was the only way to go. Boulton needled him only slightly on this obvious cognitive dissonance before Baldy2 said – in a zero irony response – that “What we need is for the People to decide what sort of Second Referendum they need”.
“You see Minister,” said Sir Humphrey, “the People need to tell themselves what kind of referendum they need by voting about what they want to say next time, prior to reaffirming in a third referendum what they said the first time.”
As the May Commons update approached yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn announced that he would call a non-binding vote of no confidence in Mrs May rather than the Government, but then almost immediately dropped the idea. Even the ghost of Sir Humphrey would struggle with that episode, but let’s see how he manages it, with his usual wry smile:
“Minister, Mr Corbyn is merely signalling that he has confidence in Mrs May’s ability to inadvertently screw the EU which he hates although for tactical reasons must pretend he likes but equally doesn’t want to be handed a crown of thorns with a chalice of poisoned wine by becoming Prime Minister just yet, and so wants to be assured that in the unlikely event of him winning such a vote of no confidence only Mrs May would go, thus leaving the Conservative Party in a pickle clumsily wrapped in fibreglass which he can then condemn at PMQs every Wednesday, however at the last minute John McDonnell told him the idea is to go for a Second Referendum and so, being a man of rigid principle, unstinting consistency – but chiefly inestimable survival wisdom – Her Majesty’s Leader of the Opposition bowed to his advisers”.
Came the hour, came the Daft Mare. Some are born to be leaders, some have leadership thrust upon them, and some steal leadership from others vastly better qualified than they. Mrs May told us that the vote she backed out of on December 11th will now take place – with Commons debates beforehand – on January 14th.
What is likely to happen between then and now, apart from Christmas?
The Prime Minister told the Commons:
“I know this House is still deeply uncomfortable about the backstop. And I understand that. And I want us to go further still in the reassurances we secure. Discussions with my EU partners – including Presidents Tusk, Juncker and others – have shown that further clarification following the Council’s conclusions is in fact possible. So discussions are continuing to explore further political and legal assurances.”
Sir Humphrey intervenes once more:
“Minister, it is important always to remember that a backstop is really nothing more than (if I might put into words what the Prime Minister said) what insurance companies never want to insure against, that is – something which seems very unlikely to happen but always does. It is clear that the Prime Minister believes – while it has been emphatically stated by Brussels that no such possibilities exist – certain plausible but meaningless clarifications might be forthcoming. This could mean, more or less, that a meaningful vote can occur on January 14th about meaningless side letters in such a manner as to reassure persons of a less than discerning nature that continuing explorations of assurances are in fact meaningful and thus likely to bring concrete meaning to hitherto and to fore ethereal considerations.”
I make only one firm and convinced prediction about what will happen in due course: somebody with gumption and a sharp mind will write a script about this saga when it finally comes to some sort of end, and Hollywood will be falling over its knickers to buy the rights*.
I nominate Helen Mirren to play May, John Slattery to play Corbyn, Corbyn to play Sir Humphrey Appleby, Diane Abbott to play silly buggers with the statistics, and Billy Bragg in a cameo role as the inevitable busker singing All Around my Hat outside the railings of Downing Street.
But while we’re waiting for that End Game, whassnext?
Several million citizens appear to think that the next major event will be full-on Armageddon….and have begun panic buying. Apart from the likelihood of most of them being Remaindeer, I am at a loss to know why. Whatever the answer, this has hilariously coincided with a decision by Britain’s retailers to slash prices, the hard up British consumer seemingly displaying little interest thus far in the Christmas splurge. So now, websites and shops are heaving with dingbat Remain flappy-bottoms and Leave bargain hunters.
Rather than being a movie in real time, the Parliamentary process is taking on all the features of a third-rate amdram provincial pantomime. Yesterday we had “Oh yes he will/won’t!” shouted by Corbyn Labour, and today his ugly sister across the divide is taunting with “Oh no you daren’t!”, to which the Peter Pan lad isself insists, “Oh yes I do….look behind you!”
But behind She Who Must be Obeyed, the rebels have shot their bolt, and Labour knows it. Corbyn himself admits the motion will fail….and there aren’t anywhere near enough Tories prepared to put Nation before Party and vote with the Opposition. The sad reality is that, behind the Ugly Sister herself, there are 280+ equally wart-riddled Uglies who want to put off the inevitable burning of their backsides.
The Conservative Party wants to have the cake and eat it too – and those with double standards always want double helpings. What we should have is a General Election once the Withdrawal Bill fails again on January 14th. But we won’t.
Yet again however – and this is so typical of May – she has boxed herself into a corner by openly insisting several times on camera that a second referendum would not solve anything, and represent an insult to democracy. In truth, what she fears is that Leave would win another victory, and force her into a “harder” Brexit….something, as a dyed in the wool geopolitical Remainoid, she is anxious to avoid at all costs.
My suspicion is that she will try one or both of two tactics to keep the clock ticking nicely down towards Brexit-Day, by when a Government (not necessarily hers) will ask for cooperation from Labour Remainers to achieve an extension to Article 50.
First, between now and January 6th (ish), Whitehall will look – in concert with their oppos in Brussels – to come up with a form of comfort side-letter suggesting that only a plague of boils would trigger the backstop. This will be leaked to the press in its best light, and declared by both UK, European and US media as the Big Breakthrough for which we’ve all been waiting….and scrape through the Commons on the 14th.
For myself, I don’t think a convincing ‘budge’ by the Eurocrats will be forthcoming – and even if it was, I doubt if it would have a snowball in Hell’s chance of getting a Commons majority without being so mauled, it would then be unacceptable to the Sprouts. (Bear in mind that Dominic Grieve has already clearly established Parliament’s right to add amendments and change content that alters the substance previously negotiated by Überstürmbannfuhrer Robbins in Brussels).
Second, once the Bill fails, May will (I’m sure) give yet another speech about her “unsparing” determination to carry on negotiations, hoping again to keep running down the clock.
I have a sneaking hunch, however, that behind the public facade, the Remain candidates for her job have no desire to get another year of Theresa May. I think there is every possibility that she will face a Remainer Cabinet revolt forcing her to resign (if she resigns, the Tories can have another leadership contest) – and she will give way to another Remainer PM….who will call for an extension to Article 50, get that through Parliament relatively easily, and then….and then….God only knows.
Once the ides of March are upon us – and Brexit is looking increasingly remote – probably one or more of two major events will occur.
First, the Blairite breakaway from Corbyn Labour will probably have happened. And second, the Faragist anti-Brexit Party will almost certainly be launched.
There is also a third matter – the political career of Boris Johnson. If he were to join forces with Nigel Farage, there could be serious chance of other Tories following, and a bloc of ‘Independence’ seats created in Parliament if and when another election is called, or by elections occur.
Last but not least, there is the econo-fiscal storm still brewing around the world that might itself be triggered by eurozone crises in one for or another. That crisis is, I still maintain, infinitely more important than anything served up by a bunch of tin-pot dictators in Brussels, Strasbourg and Frankfurt.
For the time being, I recommend taking the kids to a real pantomime and forgetting Brexit entirely until Boxing Day is behind us.