The total agreement of her cabinet on the Tories’ Brexit strategy, that brilliant achievement of Theresa May, lauded by our free and fearless press and rather too many of The Commentators That Count™, turned out to be another of those May mirages. On Friday evening it was there in all its glory, but by yesterday the old Tory Europe infighting was back. And now it has ended in a series of resignations.
First out the door has been - and has been is the operative phrase here - Brexit Secretary David Davis, who by yesterday evening had finally recovered completely from getting himself what Neil Kinnock might have called Utterly And Totally And Totally And Utterly at last week’s Spectator summer party. Realising that he had done next to nothing for the past year, Davis resolved to make up for all that by resigning from the Cabinet.
As the Guardian has reported, “David Davis has resigned as Brexit secretary, shattering the hard-won consensus around Theresa May’s Chequers deal and plunging her government into crisis … His resignation was swiftly followed by that of fellow Department for Exiting the EU minister Steve Baker. It forces May to reshuffle her government, at the same time as trying to convince backbenchers to support her plan”.
Baker, an alumnus of the Young Britons Foundation who secured their coveted Golden Dolphin award, has since been apparently followed by Suella Braverman, although it’s possible that nobody noticed. Davis has claimed that his lack of belief in Theresa May’s allegedly agreed strategy meant “I wouldn’t have done a good job at it”.
But he’d not done a good job, or even much of a job at all, since his appointment. And the reaction to his departure only served to underscore that, with the Staggers’ Helen Lewis recalling Nadine Dorries’ infamous comment about Davis’ SAS training meaning he could take people out, adding “Most notably, it turns out, himself”. Adam Bienkov of Business Insider recalled last November. “Davis asked if he still thinks Brexit is ‘the easiest thing in human history’. Davis: ‘It's a complete cinch’”. There was more.
James Crisp of the Telegraph relayed the words of an EU diplomat: “The article 50 negotiation has so far taken up several hundreds of hours in negotiation. Of which minister Davis was here for 4 this year … His role has always been more defined in London. So that’s where they will have to look at the consequences. On this end we will just negotiate with whomever the UK government sends here to do so”. Ouch!
Otto English mused “After decades of Euroscepticism David Davis won his precious Brexit and was handed the Brexit Ministerial post. But having got it he had absolutely no idea what to do with it. A man who seems to define both the Peter principle and the Dunning Kruger effect”. And Jon Snow of Channel 4 News added “David Davies resigns after four hours of face to face negotiations in Brussels in two years … on this basis, whoever takes over can expect at about 1hr 45 minutes of face to face talks in the next nine months”.
Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian had one simple and damning observation: “Notably absent from Davis’s resignation letter or interview: a workable alternative plan for Brexit”. And Mike Hind noted “Suella Braverman eh. She's gone too. Suella Braverman, who said there was nothing secretive about the ERG & its funding while refusing to reveal anything at all about it”. Talking of which, LBC host James O’Brien had a word of warning.
“Whatever the 'plan' is, as soon as it's written down it falls apart. Rees Mogg & co understand this. They don't have to offer any plausible alternative, they just need to continue denying reality to get cheered by the dwindling band of unicornists”. Got it in one.
The whole shambles of Brexit, and this lame duck Government, has been laid bare. And where did it all start? Back in the run-up to that 2015 General Election, and one of those Tweets that has not aged at all well. Young Dave - who, to his credit, has not deleted the evidence - told the Tory faithful “With 100 days to go to the election - I'll be on @BBCr4today at 8.10am, explaining why the choice is between competence and chaos”.
Cameron won. He delivered chaos without competence. He ran off when the going got difficult. And it has been downhill since then. It will not get any better.
Theresa May could, of course, realise the game is up and go. Just a thought.