Thursday 13 December 2018

Theresa May, killer zombie, keeps moving forward


I was praying so hard that Tory MPs got rid of Theresa May, but like a killer zombie she seems dead but indestructible. She won by 200 votes to 117 in a secret ballot.

The election was called yesterday morning and was over by early evening. Her briefest of election campaigns was memorable for a big lie. She said a leadership election would take so long that Brexit would have to be postponed when she knew that, unlike the Great War whose centenary we just marked, it would be over by Christmas.

It would seem that most back-benchers voted against her, but no-one knows. Many of the cabinet may secretly have done so. She is now
the self-confessedly temporary leader of an extremely divided minority Government.

The Eurosceptics, caught off guard by an election they did not expect to take place till Monday, did much better than expected and many of the centre voted against Mrs. May. She is now protected for a year from another such vote, but she still needs to get the Commons to pass her deal, which seems impossible. She also needs to retain the support of the cabinet, though she does not allow cabinet votes. Several Leavers somehow remain in the cabinet, presumably extremely unhappy with her.

Her luck is that there is no obvious candidate to replace her but there are lots of ideas for Brexit that are better than hers: Norway option (N.B. NOT 'Norway plus') temporarily; the Canada option, which the EU would accept if the alternative was a hard Brexit; a managed hard Brexit; and an unmanaged Hard Brexit. 

You could read the poll result as evidence that only 1117 Tory MPs plus ten or fifteen Labour and DUP MPs would vote for a Hard Brexit, but this is the default option.
Far from thinking that no deal is better than a bad deal Mrs May believes the opposite. I agree with sinking heart with Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph today who thinks that her plan (if that is not too grand a word) is at any price to prevent a no-deal Brexit, which is why Remainers voted for her. He said:

As to the Eurosceptics, their attempt at ousting her – their last hope to save a meaningful Brexit – worked out much better than expected, even though it ultimately failed. Jacob Rees-Mogg and his merry band of revolutionaries didn’t have the numbers to impose their will, but have nevertheless inflicted yet more political damage on the PM.

Yet they, too, are stuck. Their plan – to elect a charismatic Brexiteer, to unveil a radical, popular manifesto with big, bold tax cuts and other policies, and then to call and win a general election to gain a majority to implement a proper Brexit – would have been hugely appealing to many, but will now be hard to resurrect. It would have been the one way to break the logjam and to realign politics in a coherent way....

Assuming that her [Mrs. May's] new secret mission is to prevent a no-deal Brexit, her only hope is to reach out to the Opposition, even at the cost of further infuriating her party. Her most likely options would be to either extend Article 50 and seek to hold a “deal versus no deal” referendum or “pivot” to an even softer form of Brexit – perhaps a combination of the backstop, the single market and the customs union, the so-called Norway-plus option, which is entirely different from the real Norway model. She may even be tempted by a version of the “government of national unity” that Nicky Morgan, the Tory Remainer, advocated the other day. But it is unclear whether any of these options would truly garner a majority in the Commons, and in any case her Government and party would disintegrate completely in the meantime.

All of this means that UK politics will remain in a nosedive, with the flight controls now firmly jammed and no functioning ejector seat. Barring a miracle, it is hard to see how Britain can avoid a full-on catastrophe: either no Brexit or another ultra-divisive referendum, the break-up of the Conservative Party, and a Corbyn government, or most likely a combination thereof. Even for Mrs May, for whom staying in No 10 matters more than anything else, that must qualify as a pyrrhic victory.   

The fall of Margaret Thatcher seems like yesterday. I also remember Sir Anthony Meyer, the stalking donkey, and Michael Portillo installing 40 fax and telephone lines and then not standing against John Major. I only very dimly remember Mrs. Thatcher toppling Mr. Heath. I remember that John Peyton stood in the second round of that one to collect the votes of MPs who didn't like the Heathites but could not bear to vote for a woman.  It was another age. 

All those contests were hugely enjoyable, but this one was endlessly depressing. It  makes me feel like crying.


  1. "To elect a charismatic Brexiteer, to unveil a radical, popular manifesto with big, bold tax cuts and other policies, and then to call and win a general election to gain a majority to implement a proper Brexit – would have been hugely appealing to many, but will now be hard to resurrect." Especially because it was a deluded and completely unreal fantasy all along.

  2. Obviously, the Remainers want to confuse the issue by having another referendum, and they make debating points by demanding one in the face of May's resistance. I give credit to May for standing her ground here: you do not govern via referendum. The election is the referendum. I liked it when she said to the little SNP twit, You think in terms of having another referendum because, as with the Brexit referendum, you didn't like the results of the Scotch referendum.
    T John Jamieson

    1. There has never been a referendum on whiskey, nor bam juice, for that matter.

  3. Are tax cuts what Britain needs after nearly a decade of austerity? Not sure.

  4. Bit unfair to zombies this