Kathy Gyngell writes: When the headline ‘EU leaders agree Brexit deal’ flashed on to my screen yesterday morning I thought:
1. Since there is no chance that either Theresa May or the EU will row back on this, why didn’t Boris put himself squarely behind No Deal in his otherwise brilliant Northern Ireland speech?
2. Why, Number Ten’s miraculous media machine apart, are Tory Brexiteers letting May make all the running?
3. When will the catastrophic scale of their error not to submit their letters occur to them?
Andrew Cadman answered all this in the article below first published on May 19, 2018 on TCW. Brexit, he said, is a Tory Party morality tale, and so it is. He explains why the ‘what’s in it for me’ party has proved utterly unequal to the task of a once in a century opportunity for conservatism.
Why don’t they just DO something?
Where are the letters to the ’22?
Where are the resignations over May’s utter capitulation?
Why must this agony continue for a second longer?
Because that is how the Tory Party rolls. Over the past few months we have heard a lot from various Tory factions – the rabid, fanatical Remainers such as Soubry and Clarke, or the hardline Brexiteers of the European Research Group, represented through Jacob Rees-Mogg’s beautifully modulated vowels.
But the faction we have not heard from is the biggest, most ancient, most ruthless, most committed of all: the ‘bums on green benches faction’. It says little, but it watches and it waits, constantly fixed on its one, singular purpose – the retention of the social status Parliament affords. An iron-clad belief in its entitlement to office which is matched only by its uninterest in real power.
There is a reason Theresa May is leader of the Tory Party, and will remain so, just as the hapless John Major she so resembles did before her: it is because she is much closer to that true spirit of Toryism than the ideologues on either side of her. She, like them, went into politics merely wanting to be something rather than to do something. She, like them, lacks both vision and courage. She, like them, quivers with fear at any perceived threat to status or position. She, like them, would much rather kick the can down the road if it means bums on green benches can be preserved for another day.
Think that is harsh? Note that, although most Tory MPs voted Remain, the vast majority who did so switched sides without a second thought once the EU referendum result came in. Of course, they told us – and perhaps even convinced themselves – that this was because they ‘respected democracy’. If that is the case, why aren’t they up in arms over the emerging soft Brexit now on the horizon? – a clear betrayal of the biggest democratic exercise Britain has ever undertaken.
Of course, there are noble strands within the party: say, the Catholic social conservatism of a Jacob Rees-Mogg, or the Protestant radicalism of a Michael Gove.* However, these are minority traditions: on the whole Tories do not fight and die in the ditch for their principles – they merely occupy the battlefield after the fight is over and help themselves to the spoils. Moreover, a party so invested with a sense of social entitlement naturally has a low opinion of those it governs and only fitfully believes in their emancipation.
Brexit is a Tory morality tale: the party originally took us into the then EEC without consultation, and over 40 years later was bullied into giving a referendum on the EU through fear of losing office. Having then been trusted by the public to carry out its wishes to leave, it frustrates the decision, and perhaps destroys British democracy itself.
If there is one small chink in the gloom, the utter betrayal that soft Brexit represents will surely hasten the party’s demise, as its activists continue to leave and the voters turn away in disgust. A Corbyn government may bring forth real horrors, but it is surely a price worth paying for the destruction of a party whose continued existence stops all hopes of a genuine conservative revival.
*As you can see, even I was not cynical enough