EVERYTHING that ought to topple a Prime Minister, in the case of Theresa May – she who denies all responsibility – doesn’t.
Even three years ago, few would have predicted that the ‘informal’ nature of the British Constitution could be so abused by a Prime Minister determined to stay in office at all costs, or that the political establishment would tolerate such a state of affairs.
The Conservative Party has just suffered its worst defeat since the local council elections since 1995, losing 1,334 councillors – towards half of them.
But does Mrs May resign? No. Do calls for her resignation lead the news headlines? No. They lead with senior ministers doubling down on her behalf. Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock, Michael Gove have taken upon themselves to chastise their fellow MPs and ‘face the facts’ that there are not the numbers for no deal – the facts that Mrs May, with their help, has created.
In a reversal of blame and manipulation of the truth, Mr Gove insists he has not gone soft on Brexit. He might as well have claimed that he resigned last July along with Boris Johnson and David Davis when Mrs May forced her Chequers deal on the Cabinet!
It is extraordinary how people can create and twist a narrative to suit and justify themselves – it takes a literary genius such as Anthony Trollope to describe the mental processes and self-justification of the politically and morally deluded or compromised, as he does in his novel Phineas Finn.
Instead of telling their death star PM she must go now go, her Ministers, no doubt suitably terrorised by her brutal despatch of Gavin Williamson and fast learning May’s tactics, are using the dire results of the council elections to help her, endorsing talks with Labour and settling for a worst of all worlds customs union ‘Brexit’ – a worst of all worlds scenario.
It took the backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin (whom I should have included in my list of principled Tories yesterday) to make the point:
And at least the pundits are catching up with what we’ve been saying for more than a year on TCW: that voters have smelt the arrogance of Remain zealots and inflicted their punishment on the parties accordingly.
But still too many still fail to get Kim May’s measure. Robert Peston tries in the Spectator to explain Mrs May’s state of mind. He argues she has nothing to lose even if the sacked Gavin Williamson chooses to become her enemy. In a word, she doesn’t care. Why not is the question:
‘Well on her brief walking holiday, it may well have sunk home that she now has more enemies than friends on her own benches. And she may well have calculated that her only hope of earning an honourable place in history is to put what she sees as principle ahead of trying to placate colleagues who will never be placated.
‘Again there was more evidence of her liberation from the shackles of party fealty yesterday.
‘When she was interviewed in the afternoon by senior MPs – those who chair select committees – she treated Labour ones with courtesy while showing near contempt for those Tory Brexiters who have blocked her attempt to secure her own version of Brexit (compare how she answered questions posed by Labour’s Hilary Benn with her response to the Conservative Sir Bernard Jenkin).’
She can do this with the ‘powerful caucus of ministers: Hammond, Rudd, Gauke, Lidington, Rudd, Clark, Mundell, Gove, Stewart – who are urging her to put country before party, and agree a deal with Jeremy Corbyn that perhaps a majority of her own MPs would hate’.
Of course it would not be to put country before party. And this is where Peston gets it wrong – pushing a Corbyn-agreed Brexit through is not for her legacy or for the fact that she sees her days numbered at Number Ten. Au contraire. It is her strategy to stay in power for ever and ever.
We at TCW still count the days it will take for her Machiavellian Cabinet to understand the extent of her ambition, hubris and sheer ruthlessness.
Today is Day 30 . . .