LAURENCE Hodge asks elsewhere on TCW today whether the Tory top brass took the opportunity of Easter to stock up on the little bit of glyphosate needed to finish off its residual grass roots.
It seems they did. Prisons Minister Rory Stewart, for one, returned to Westminster and the Today programme studio two weeks older but none the wiser. There, ensconced with John Humphrys, blinkers tightened, he persisted in his softly spoken (‘creepy’ might be a better word) insistence that Mrs May is doing ‘a very very important job’ and a ‘good job’. Deaf to a party grass roots in revolt, he stuck to his script. The failure to get ‘the deal’ through is the problem and nothing to do with the individual. ‘People’ who think otherwise are mistaken, you see:
‘So I think people are misunderstanding what’s happening here. People are somehow suggesting that she’s lying, that she never wanted to do this . . . she absolutely committed and the public has seen painfully why it hasn’t happened. Not through any will of her own but simply because we don’t have a majority in Parliament and attacking a PM . . . if she simply can’t get the votes do it, it isn’t a criticism of her but a criticism of the people in the Conservative Party who won’t vote for her.’
Ah yes. It’s the people who are wrong, not Mrs May. How ‘her’ deal – ‘the only one on the table’ deal – is not everything to do with one individual, Mrs May, who made it hers, took ownership and brooked no alternative, is what is incomprehensible. But Rory could have been a ventriloquist’s dummy, Mrs May’s very own talking puppet: ‘If you want Brexit this is the deal.’
So the Brexit charade goes on, or as Richard Littlejohn put it yesterday, ‘the circular firing squad has reassembled and hostilities have been resumed’. The first rounds culminated in a stand-off between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn over the lack of progress of their talks – the same talks that on Sunday the FT optimistically said Mrs May was going to breathe fresh life into.
The misunderstanding belongs to Rory and media outlets like the FT, not to ‘people’ like Mr Littlejohn who know it’s a fact, not an illusion, that Mrs May’s authority is shot.
Littlejohn, let’s face it, is one of Stewart’s ignorant and misled ‘people’ who believe that May never intended to honour the clear instruction of the British people for a clean break. Never mind that her refusal to invite either Nigel Farage or Labour Brexiteers such as Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart to join a broad, cross-party, pro-Brexit coalition at the outset to negotiate our departure was a bit of a giveaway. Or that ‘those pro-Brexit Tories she did include, such as David Davis and Boris Johnson, she first drove to distraction and then drove out’.
Ask yourself, he goes on in this barnstormer of an article:
‘Who would you rather have speaking for Britain in Brussels – Farage or May? Contrast his magnificent public putdown of the EU’s Herman Van Rompuy – “You have the charisma of a damp rag”, etc – with May’s pitiful, supine, grovelling, on-all-fours crawling to Barnier and Drunker. She approached the talks with all the dignity of a beggar sitting outside Westminster Tube station, yet still seems bewildered as to why they treated her with such overt disdain.
‘In the process, she has repelled millions of traditional Tory voters, brought her own party to the brink of electoral extinction, and put Britain’s fate in the hands of nonentities such as Pixie Balls-Cooper and that pipsqueak poison dwarf Jean-Claude Bercow.
‘She has also managed the almost impossible feat of making O J Corbyn, an obscure, unreconstructed, terrorist-loving Seventies Marxist throwback, electable.
‘Unbelievably, she has been reduced to begging Corbyn for support to get her risible “deal” through the Commons, even if that means diluting it still further.’
Mrs May will, Littlejohn predicts, ‘have to be dragged screaming and kicking out of No 10 . . . too late to prevent the catastrophe of Corbyn winning the next election’. We fear this too. But it won’t be the fault of Farage or anyone else who wanted and still wants a clean Brexit negotiated that is nothing less than we voted for. It will, sorry Rory, be the fault not of ‘people’ whether in or out of Parliament, but of one individual: Mrs May.
We at TCW are counting the days till the Rory Stewarts of Westminster stop putting ‘people’ right and start listening to them instead.
Today is Day 20 . . .