WHAT an utter, utter shambles. And still Mrs May, the architect of a mess that you thought could not get worse but which invariably and horribly does by the day, does not see it as her duty to resign.
How many headlines have there been assuming or predicting her downfall as here, here, and here, all of which has she survived? No wonder she is so confident about her immovability. Yesterday the Telegraph, perhaps wisely, simply logged the key steps to her (assumed) downfall, ones I suspect Mrs May herself regards as her very own stations of the cross – any one of which would have seen curtains for any PM in the past.
Lame duck is hardly the appropriate metaphor for a PM who knowingly presides over a Government that has rescinded its own Brexit policy in favour of its determination by a rogue remainer Parliament; who ignores her now rogue cabinet from which any semblance of collective responsibility has evaporated – Philip Hammond’s barely disguised call for a second referendum being but the latest example – and yet still does not demand her resignation.
Perversely, having a grassroots party in open rebellion, senior Tories turning on each other like rats in a cage – a former party chairman helpfully discrediting her most likely popular contender and a chancellor who chooses to disparage and mock her possible successors – most likely suits her purpose, one that Caroline Bell sets out today in TCW here. Autocrats thrive on the confusion they sow.
Meanwhile the Conservative Party’s self-immolation is turning into a script worthy of a Jacobean tragedy as it fails to unite either to oust the author of its demise or to condemn the increasingly insane David Lammy’s favourite Leftist game of smearing anyone who doesn’t agree with him as a Nazi, an honour he accorded Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson. We are not holding our breath for Sir Patrick McLoughlin to denounce this slander on his colleagues.
In the midst of this madness some sanity is getting through into the sunlight.
Sir Bill Cash, the MP and former shadow attorney general, who bravely asked Mrs May to her face if she would resign, has met a team of high-powered lawyers who have been examining Theresa May’s extension of Article 50. As a result, he believes it to be unlawful. For those of you not behind the Telegraph paywall, the crux of their argument is that Mrs May has not simply broken a promise made more than 100 times not to extend exit day, but that she has not acted lawfully under UK law to accept the extension proposed by the the EU.
The former party leader Iain Duncan Smith has also publicly demanded of Mrs May that she go by the time of the EU elections. Yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph leader was even more urgent in its demand for her removal. It spoke of the Tory collapse as a national emergency, with Mrs May’s failure to deliver a meaningful Brexit (down to her parliamentary party’s support of her failed negotiating stance and incompetent premiership) spelling electoral disaster:
‘This is a national emergency and there is only one imaginable escape. The paralysis in the Tory parliamentary party must end – Cabinet members and MPs need to remove Mrs May now and replace her fast. They should pay attention to the advice of Lord Spicer and Lord Hamilton of Epsom, two previous chairmen of the 1922 committee, who insist it is possible to change the rules to do so. Britain needs a new prime minister who is 100 per cent committed to Brexit.’
This is what we have been arguing on TCW for months. But with respect to the right-minded Tory bigwigs who are finally putting their heads above the parapet, ‘by the EU elections’ is not soon enough. Mrs May is not to be trusted. She does not share their moral code. She and her civil service backers are politically ruthless. On current form she would abuse any leeway granted.
The key question remains – how long will it be before before other Tory grandees or key members of the Cabinet get behind Bill Cash, Iain Duncan Smith and the noble Lords? At TCW we have been counting the days to their toppling of Kim May.
Today is Day 11 . . .