After the Friday cabinet awayday at Chequers, and the failure of Brexiteer ministers to muster so much as a peep of protest at Theresa May’s proposed negotiating position with the EU, the Sunday papers have told their readers that the Prime Minister has pulled off the kind of achievement not thought possible. The cabinet was united, the Tories were united, and it was forward to Brexit. And then came reality.
First with the bad news was pollster Survation - that’s the one who got last year’s General Election closer than the competition - with their latest survey for the Mail on Sunday, which told its readers “Voters back Theresa May over her Brexit deal but Labour has pulled ahead of the Tories in latest polls”. That’s quite a big but.
The MoS explained “Theresa May’s Chequers deal on Brexit has won public support – and could help her achieve her dream of leading the Conservatives into the next Election … That is the finding of the first survey conducted after Mrs May overcame a Cabinet revolt led by Boris Johnson … The Survation poll for The Mail on Sunday shows that 33 per cent support the agreement with 23 against”. But … don’t forget the Labour lead.
“Although Mrs May appears to have united the Cabinet, Jeremy Corbyn has moved ahead of her in the polls. Support for Labour is at 40 per cent, a two-point rise in two weeks, with the Conservatives on 38, three points down”. So she could lead the Tories into the next General Election, and then lose it to Labour. There’s victory for you.
And it got worse. ITV political editor Robert Peston picked up on the deep unhappiness within the anti-EU Tory right, telling “Sources confirm letters calling for vote of confidence in @theresa_may leadership going in to @Graham__Brady, chair of 1922. Tory Brexiters very unhappy - accuse PM of traducing those who voted to leave EU. This appears to be spontaneous, not coralled by ERG & @Jacob_Rees_Mogg”.
The Tory Europhobes are calling Theresa May’s deal a sellout, claiming it will leave the UK hitched to the EU - potentially forever. And as for the Moggster not having anything to do with leadership manoeuvres, BBC producer Liz Rawlings had this observation: “On BBC Look North tonight - Andrea Jenkyns MP says she would ‘100%’ be willing to sign a letter to trigger a leadership challenge to Theresa May. She says: ‘I am a blunt northerner. I speak as I find...I am standing up for the 17.4 million people who wanted these red lines’”.
Got that? Now look who Rees Mogg is Retweeting - Brexit Central, featuring … Andrea Jenkyns. And JRM is head of the European Reform Group, thought to have more than 50 Tories on board. They have the numbers, and the collective idiocy, to mount a contest.
It was Europe that split the Tories in the late 1980s. It was Europe that dogged much of “Shagger” Major’s time at 10 Downing Street. It was Europe that finished off the leadership of William ‘Ague. It was Europe that finished Young Dave - after, of course, he had put his own country into a Brexit tailspin from which it might never recover.
And if the Tories are going to have another leadership bloodbath, the calls for a General Election will grow to a crescendo. So perhaps we can get rid of their next leader, too.