Exactly how our not at all unelected Prime Minister will play the negotiation game when she has finally triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and Britain begins its journey out of the EU has been the subject of much speculation - until now. Because after events yesterday, and overnight, we can see very clearly what Theresa May intends to do. And it should concern anyone who cares about democracy and the sovereignty of Parliament.
As ever, it is not the isolated strands in the wind that confirm the name of this particular game, but that they all fit as part of a coherent whole. And taken as a whole, they show not only that Ms May is looking to shut out any dissent - either by individuals or by organised groups, like the House of Lords - but that she has been well and truly rumbled.
Back in January, Ms May told “I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain”. At the time, this was, yes, another isolated strand in the wind, perhaps not given too much prominence, given her propensity to meaningless verbiage on any EU-related subject. But as Jolyon Maugham has observed, former Chancellor Nigel Lawson was there with exactly the same sentiment yesterday.
“No agreement would be better than a bad agreement. Sadly - and it is sad - a bad agreement is all that is likely to be on offer”, Lawson observed. Those who had made an article of faith from claims like “They need us more than we need them” now have cause to stop and think. Whether they choose to do so is another matter.
And the Lawson confirmation was merely the opening act in The Revelation Of Saint Theresa: after the Lords had voted by a majority of 98, in their most numerous turnout for around 200 years, to give Parliament a “meaningful” vote on the final terms for EU withdrawal, Ms May abruptly sacked Michael Heseltine from his advisory roles to the Government. She did not do the deed personally.
Indeed, Tarzan later confirmed that he had never met Ms May. His sacking might also have been taken as yet another isolated strand in the wind, had it not been for a credible and worrying series of social media observations from J J Patrick.
Here’s what he had to say: “I've had some information on Brexit from a source close to Number 10. They are well placed and reliable … ‘May has already made plans to walk away from negotiations, but not until after the French and German elections … blaming EU intransigence for the break down’. Between the lines they want to avoid blaming Germany directly as it would be untrue … So, that's your end game. Brexit is a pre-planned blame game … And if you don't know why this is their only plan, I'm not here to babysit you. The rationale is as obvious the intended result”.
Patrick’s information has only been reinforced this morning by word from the BBC’s Norman Smith: “Hearing rumours PM wants whip removed from Tory rebels who vote against govt over Brexit”. This, again, is merely a strand in the wind when taken alone, but put alongside all those other strands, and remembering a defiant Anna Soubry being featured by the Beeb’s main TV news bulletin last night, makes a worrying whole.
We have a Prime Minister who has not only declined thus far to submit herself to the electorate, but also exhibits a worrying control freakery and inability to listen to those of differing opinion. There is no prospect of the approach described generating any useful deal for Britain from the upcoming negotiations with the other 27 EU member states. On top of all that, the entire charade has effectively been legitimised by Labour’s approach.
The realisation that we have been had will not dawn upon many of the most intransigent Leave supporters for some time. But it does not alter the fact of the matter: Theresa May and her chosen ministers - the befuddled straight man David Davis, the disgraced spiv Liam Fox, and the clown Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson - appear to have owned up to themselves that they are not up to such tiresome chores as negotiations.
And what we have left is little short of a Parliamentary dictatorship: Ms May isn’t up to it, so she’ll take her bat home at the earliest opportunity, and for good measure manage to engineer an early General Election to take advantage of Labour’s declining credibility. Winning an increased majority would mean she was right, no matter what the state of the economy. The Scots and Northern Irish want to leave? Fine, and in any case she probably can’t get her brain around that one, so it won’t bother her.
We’ve been had. And as things stand, we’re stuffed. Still, nice day for it, eh?