Theresa May and her cabinet are having an awayday at Chequers, where they are, supposedly, to agree on a negotiating position for a Brexit deal with the EU. This, we are led to believe, will include significant regulatory alignment with the EU. And someone not in the cabinet is unhappy about that, to the extent of sending an emissary into Downing Street yesterday evening to register his displeasure.
That someone, to no surprise at all, is Rupert Murdoch, and the emissary was his deeply unpleasant gofer Tony Gallagher, still for some reason the editor of the Sun, whose presence ahead of that crunch awayday has done more than raise eyebrows. Why this should be can be ascertained by one look at today’s lead article and editorial.
“Brexiteers fear Theresa May has left a future US trade deal in tatters thanks to her plans to align with the EU on food and agriculture … Furious Brexiteer Ministers and MPs have said her plans would tie the country’s hands and vowed to vote down any such measure” screams the headline, before letting slip who is batting for whom.
“The Sun can reveal they secretly met on early on Wednesday morning in Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office to coordinate how to hold the PM’s feet to the fire over a proposed customs sell out to Brussels”. Really? We know that there was a meeting yesterday evening, but one a day earlier? Who told them that? Then we hear from “One cabinet source”, who tells “The resistance will make their case very firmly to the full Cabinet”.
Who might that be? As if you need to ask. It’s Bozza himself, doing what the Murdoch mafiosi tell him, for fear that they might open the safe of incriminating material and end his political career. How can I be so certain? Well, despite all the threats of resignation over Theresa May’s plans, “allies of Boris Johnson last night predicted he won’t resign as Foreign Secretary even if he loses the colossal fight today”.
He’s going to stay put: after all, the Murdoch press need their sources. And another giveaway came with today’s Sun editorial: “If we aren’t a fully independent trading power, how can we truly claim we’ve left the EU? It is The Sun’s key ‘red line’ alongside ending free movement, which Theresa May is adamant she will do”.
Not Theresa May’s “red line”. Not the Tories’ “red line”. The Murdoch press’ “red line”.
Small wonder the comment was adverse and deeply cynical, with James Felton noting “Inviting the editor of the Sun round for a chit chat the night before giant brexit decisions doesn’t exactly scream ‘taking back control’”. Mark Di Stefano of BuzzFeed went further: “On a night of drama about what’s about to happen to Brexit, the editor of The Sun newspaper pictured walking into Downing St. Absolutely. Unreal”.
Owen Jones quipped “The editor of The Sun off to give the PM some orders”. Labour MP Dan Carden was unimpressed. “Sure sign the Tories are planning a Brexit of lies, bigotry and against the interests of working people, when they invite the editor of The S*n for tea – the day before Cabinet showdown at Chequers”. And Jo Phillips simply said “Why is the Editor of The Sun in ... think we know why”. Kind of reverse Soviet Russia.
Talking of which, Nicholas Whithorn explained “In the Soviet Union the editor of Pravda went to the Kremlin and was told what to write in line with government policy. In Tory Britain the editor of the Sun goes to Number 10 to tell the PM what to do in line with his editorial policy”. And former Everton great Peter Reid added “Ladies and Gentlemen, Democracy”. There was only one actor missing from this farce.
And that is Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre. But perhaps he used the back entrance.