29 Jan 2019

Tories: Carry on conspiring

Theresa May knew about the Housing Minister and the Solicitor General freelancing on their own alternative Brexit policy some days ago but didn’t intervene to stop it. Leave aside for a moment the workability of the Malthouse Compromise, it is a new layer of dysfunctionality at the heart of British politics which is hard to believe. And it is telling that the PM acquiesced in it going on because she felt she could do no other.

 

We have Cabinet ministers openly caucusing ahead of Cabinet meetings. We have a minister, Richard Harrington, this morning on Radio 4, openly threatening the PM with his resignation in two weeks’ time unless she follows his recommended path on Brexit and rules out no deal. We have the PM herself in front of MPs last night hesitantly unveiling a post-defeat Plan B (backing a loosely worded amendment to re-think the backstop somehow).

 

Theresa May told the Tory MPs gathered in front of her last night that she couldn’t fully back the amendment there and then because she didn’t have Cabinet approval to do so… and then a few breaths later said she would whip the party to back it. More than one Cabinet minister in the room gestured some surprise at that. But should we be surprised at anything?

 

At one point in the meeting with Tory MPs there was one reassuring lull. Sir Bill Cash rose to speak on a point of detail about the 1972 European Communities Act. If one thing rallies the room even more than her turning on Boris Johnson it was her reply: “Let’s talk about that later, Bill.” It could be a title for her memoirs or indeed the memoirs of any number of MPs and lobby journalists.

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