NOT even the self-regarding Chuka Umunna would dare think of himself as Yul Brynner leading the Magnificent Seven: the first wave of Labour defectors are, politically, seven dwarfs. It was, therefore, presumably with her tongue in her cheek that Tory splitter Heidi Allen evoked that septet of renegade gunslingers while labelling her own triumvirate of defectors the Three Amigos.
"You've met the Magnificent Seven, you probably heard about the Lone Ranger, so I guess that makes us the Three Amigos"@heidiallen75 says she has quit the Conservatives to join the breakaway Independent Group because she is "tired of feeling numb" https://t.co/Pkm1ibcHmw pic.twitter.com/qapu4SGLpm
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) February 20, 2019
It is never wise for a politician to invite nicknames in this way; naturally, within minutes it was suggested that Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston are more akin to vaudevillians Moe, Curly and Larry, The Three Stooges.
No, not amigos. What would better suit? pic.twitter.com/XsbqLxFvmc
— Mike Billips (@mbillips) February 20, 2019
More cerebral sobriquets also came to mind. As each of the threesome used their press conference to stir the pot of Tory dissent, students of Shakespeare were possibly reminded of another troublesome trio muttering ‘Double, double toil and trouble’ around a cauldron. Or for their deranged demonising of the European Research Group (ERG), a classicist might have seen the three as an incarnation of Cerberus, the mythical triple-headed hellhound.
Instead, Heidi appositely named her triumvirate after the comedic adventure of a hapless trio. From the 1986 film Three Amigos, the lines brought to mind by Allen, Soubry and Wollaston are:
‘Which one do you like?’
‘I like the one that’s not so smart.’
‘Which one is that?’
Okay, none of the three is actually stupid. Mind you, at their press conference Anna Soubry exalted the coalition in which she served for having done the ‘right thing’ and a ‘marvellous job’ during the so-called austerity years; Soubry’s unapologetic support for fiscal restraint was in contrast to Heidi Allen’s bitter complaint of inadequate welfare and her having to ‘fight for benevolence’.
That economic juxtaposition indicated that the pair had failed in advance to compare notes on anything except Brexit – a topic on which all three read from the same script which repeatedly namechecked its author, Cliff Edge. Leaving the EU – or more precisely, preventing this – is of course the single topic which unifies the House’s new congregation of convenience, a gallimaufry that TCW’s Michael St George rightly derided as ‘defectors from democracy itself’.
Yesterday Victoria Baillon also wrote in TCW of the Three Amigos each ‘sticking two fingers up to mass democracy’. Aside from her flicking the V-sign by relentlessly railing against the referendum result, Anna Soubry’s brand of conservatism has had few fans at TCW; nonetheless, there is no denying she is a more significant and substantial political figure than lightweights Allen and Wollaston. But in her loathing of the ERG and delusion that Theresa May is ‘absolutely in hock to them’, since the 2016 referendum Anna has become unhinged.
"The prime minister is in hock to them, absolutely in hock to them," says Anna Soubry MP on the relationship between Theresa May and the European Research Group as she quits the Conservative Party to join the Independent Group@nicholaswatt | #IndependentGroup | #newsnight pic.twitter.com/ncOLWAgevS
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) February 20, 2019
She appears genuinely to have convinced herself that Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker are malevolent puppeteers, when patently it is Olly Robbins and Gavin Barwell who operate the prime minister’s strings. Soubry seems oblivious to Brexit Secretaries Davis and Raab having resigned because they were undermined, and she ignores Brexiteers Johnson, McVey, Baker and Braverman all quitting their government posts in protest at Theresa May’s proposed terms of surrender.
Hardly evidence of Leavers having the whip hand because of what the rebels’ resignation letter laughingly laments has been a ‘shift to the Right’. On the contrary, with government social policy drifting ever further Leftwards, there is nothing to support the Tory turncoats’ thesis that, on Brexit or anything else, Conservative ‘policies and priorities are firmly in the grip of the ERG and DUP’.