Yesterday the great deal, today the grim reality: a marathon five-hour Cabinet meeting ended in grudging backing for Theresa May’s allegedly historic Brexit deal, but there were rumblings of discontent. Today the Tory fissures burst open and brought the eruption: ministers are resigning, letters going in to the 1922 Committee, and it is looking more and more as if yet another Tory PM is to be deposed over the issue of Europe.
First rat out of the aqueduct was Shailesh Vara, a junior Northern Ireland minister, who many may not have heard of, but that is unimportant: his departure was the starting signal, and before long came the farcical sight of the minister who oversaw negotiations with the EU saying that what he negotiated was so rubbish, he would resign over it.
Yes, Dominic Raab, the amateur human being who famously told a live Victoria Derbyshire show in the run-up to last years’s General Election that those who had to visit food banks were not poor, but merely had a cash-flow problem. He could not support an “indefinite backstop arrangement”. Thus Raab brought us a superb example of Liebling’s Law.
[For those unfamiliar with this concept, here is how J K Galbraith interpreted Liebling’s Law: “A J Liebling of the New Yorker magazine formulated what he called Liebling’s Law. It held, roughly, that if a man of adequately complex mind proceeds in a sufficiently perverse way, he can succeed in kicking himself in his own ass out the door into the street”]
So it should be no surprise at all that after Raab had lodged his boot in his own jacksy, there would be more derangement of the rat-aqueduct interface. This has come with the resignation of the deeply unpleasant Esther McVey from the Cabinet. Sadly, she will not yet be facing the humiliation of having to apply for Universal Credit.
But what the McVey resignation does show is that there is some premeditation behind the exercise. So when Matt Chorley of the Times mused “I can’t seem to find the second page of Raab’s letter where he sets out, based on his experience in four months of negotiations, what deal he would have got that would have been better”, this was perceptive, but the point of the walkouts was not tied to anything as mundane as constructive reason.
As the ever-alert James Chapman pointed out, “Esther McVey's resignation letter is the third of the morning to state that the withdrawal agreement is a threat to the integrity of the Union. This puts Ruth Davidson and David Mundell in an extremely difficult position”. Mundell might be next? Who will be able to tell? Will anyone care by then?
Chapmen had already pointed out “Raab's resignation means May's withdrawal agreement is dead - no prospect of it getting through Parliament unless Corbyn backs it. No majority for no deal either. So: fresh negotiations which probably mean request to extend Article 50, or #PeoplesVote”. Chapman, to no surprise at all, backs the Peoples Vote campaign.
Theresa May may carry on. But her party, and indeed her Government, is disintegrating. At least she is still on the bridge, unlike Young Dave, who precipitated this mess and then ran away when it all went wrong. But her future as PM can be measured in days, not weeks.
Meanwhile, the country is getting screwed over. Time for the Tories to go.
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