THE vultures are beginning to circle. Gavin Williamson has little to lose since he’s been fired. His warning that a Brexit deal with Labour can only end in tears was the Mail on Sunday’s splash. He pointed out how the psychology of such a deal and the arithmetic are equally dire. One, Corbyn is not to be trusted; two, Mrs May can only depend on those MPs on the payroll to back her; three, it separates her from her own party (albeit that is not new) which he describes a betrayal of colossal proportions of the people who voted Conservative in the last election.
Liam Fox also popped his head above the parapet to lay down his latest red line – Mrs May doing a customs union deal with Corbyn. She does, and he quits the Cabinet, I saw that he had said somewhere.
Other Cabinet members have been too busy putting down their markers for the leaderboard to worry about where Mrs May’s BRINO policies will land us. They just want it done, whatever, so that they can get on with grappling for power.
Amber Rudd took a feminist swipe at two of her rivals – Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab – for ‘parading their wives’. She added: ‘This shouldn’t be some Game of Thrones push for the Iron Throne.’ This intervention, Camilla Tominey speculates, pushes Boris Johnson into pole position for her support and hints of a joint ticket with him. It will hardly endear her to those of us who rather like Jeremy’s and Dominic’s traditional family set-ups. But surely it could only be a short-term measure: Remainer Amber is set to lose her seat big time in the next election.
Liz Truss, aka Arya Stark, also a Cabinet non-quitter whatever Mrs May commits us to, was no doubt was thrilled by the Lady in Red pictures of herself blazoned across the Mail on Sunday – paper and magazine – hair newly coiffed. Playing down her marriage to fall in with Amber’s progressive feminist rule book, she upped her radical Tory image with a sweeping new housing agenda. A million homes on the green belt and villages to expand by five houses a year each is what she advocates for the housing problem to be solved. I’d love someone to crunch the numbers. My guess is that even that won’t absorb the predicted population rise caused by migration and births to non-UK mothers that Migration Watch tells us will require an area of countryside equivalent in size to Leicestershire by 2040.
Penny Mordaunt was also out on the media’s leadership hustings, taking full advantage of her recent promotion. She managed to get the BBC to profile her life, personality and political career in the early hours of yesterday morning. I am afraid I dozed off.
From the main contender we heard almost nothing – a tweet revealed Boris to be safely away from danger in Aberdeen. It gave nothing away on how he’d vote on the WA if brought back to the Commons for a fourth go, or any inkling as to his thoughts on May’s departure.*
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) May 11, 2019
It’s a coyness that’s beginning to get up his erstwhile Brexiteer colleagues’ noses. Back Brexit, or I’ll fight you for the leadership, Steve Baker warns him.
It really makes you wonder whether Steve and the rest of his hard-pressed co-Brexiteers wouldn’t just be better out of it: make the switch from the nasty party to the Brexit Party now, cast their lot with Nigel and have done with it. After all, Mrs May has already written the script for his party, as Sir Bernard Jenkin points out.
And the ComRes poll on how a general election would fall out can hardly have made happy reading for them this weekend. Brexiteers and Remainers alike would lose their seats their seats to the Brexit Party as well as to Labour, and the remnants would have Corbyn leading a minority government. So if they don’t want Labour to win outright they should switch now. Then they would have the option of ruling in a coalition with the Conservative Party. It’s a thought at least.
Until then we continue to count the days that Mrs May, for whom, as yet, there is no Mexit date, remains in power.
Today is Day 39 . .
* Boris Johnson’s latest Telegraph article (today’s) committing to more spending on the NHS making clear his ‘compassionate conservative’ credentials has since been published.