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The toppling of Theresa: Day 28


SHE can’t say boo to a goose when it comes to dealing with drunker Juncker, Michel Barnier or Donald Tusk, but when it comes to sacking a man she herself promoted and who ran her campaign to be PM (party leader) she is merciless. Hard as nails, cold as ice and no sign of a bended knee even on the horizon. What couldn’t she have achieved for the UK if she’d decided to play hardball with the EU?

Yesterday Mrs May accused her Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, of failing to co-operate fully with a Whitehall investigation launched by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, and ordered him out of his department. The inquiry related to the leaking of information from a meeting of the National Security Council about the Government’s deal with the global Chinese company Huawei. It was an investigation that seemed designed to eclipse the real issue, the real security threat that a government contract with Huawei to allow it to help build its 5G network would constitute.

May, a veritable modern-day Goneril, told Williamson that ‘the probe’ had found ‘compelling evidence’ suggesting his ‘responsibility for the unauthorised disclosure’ and that ‘no other, credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified’.

Williamson strenuously denied that he was in ‘any way involved in this leak‘ and questioned the quality of the investigation. This raises a crucial question: where is the evidence?

Gavin ‘I made her and I can break her’ Williamson – he threatened to bring May down in a stand-off over the defence budget a year ago – is not backing off. The question is whether he will press for the evidence and expose this as a case of guilty until proven innocent or summary justice.

Labour are demanding a full criminal inquiry into the leak, which could prove interesting.

Could it be enough to topple May? Since she has survived the departure of 38 members of her government, including six Cabinet ministers, she might confidently think why should one more make a difference? No other Prime Minister in British history has been so indifferent or impervious to constitutional convention. (Not resigning after failing to get major legislation through three times, I suspect, is unprecedented, not counting all the previous occasions in which an honourable resignation was expected or predicted.)

Tim Shipman, the political editor of the Sunday Times, views this episode as a sign of her weakness.

I beg to differ. What’s at issue is not her strength or weakness but her probity – in falling back on a hubristic and overweening civil service to keep herself in office. It’s good, though, that the former Permanent Secretary at the Home Office who now seems to be running government is firmly in Shipman’s sightline:

But whether May is driving the show or is simply the chilling and willing handmaid of Sir Mark matters not until and unless she is forced out. The question is how long will it take for her Cabinet and Parliamentary party to realise that this anti-democratic coup has taken place under their very noses?

We at TCW are counting the days.

Today is Day 28 . . .

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Edited by Kathy Gyngell

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