Yesterday evening in the Commons, Theresa May backed a vote which would allow her to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU, the intention being to drop or at least amend the so-called Irish Backstop. As befits this most desperate of Prime Ministers, this was in opposition to the stance she had implacably taken for several months previously. So why would she do this? A look at today’s papers may prove instructive.
Across the EU, leaders have stressed that the Withdrawal Agreement is not going to be reopened. It has also been pointed out that the backstop is the creation of UK negotiators, a way of meeting the PM’s “Red Lines”. But the accumulated jingoism, ignorance, xenophobia and inability to face reality in our free and fearless press overrides such niceties. This is us against them, We Brits against Johnny Foreigner.
I mean, two World Wars and one World Cup, Julia Hartley Dooda. You think I jest? One look at the Daily Mail is all you need: “THERESA’S TRIUMPH … On night of high drama, PM wins key Brexit vote, unites her party, crushes Corbyn, and tells EU: let’s do a deal”. There it is, the grand delusion laid out for all to see - if only they could see it.
The joke newspaper still calling itself the Daily Express was on the same page. “In one of the most remarkable turnarounds in political history our indomitable PM unites her party and receives the mandate to return to Brussels with Parliament’s full weight behind her … SHE DID IT! … Now it’s up to EU!” The framing of the story bears close study.
Because it may not be just about Brexit. Consider the Murdoch Sun’s predictably similar line: “PM’s Brexit Mandate … BACKSTOP FROM THE BRINK … MPs’ yes to new border plan … Labour delay bid defeated”. Yah boo Jezza! Bash the Irish! This is, ultimately, for home consumption only: as political leaders and commentators across mainland Europe wonder if the Brits have finally lost it completely, there is a more basic imperative.
As Sky News told before Ms May changed tack and opposed her previously implacably held stance, “I’m also told … that a General Election has been war gamed in Downing Street as perhaps the only way to break this impasse” (big h/t to Skwawkbox for catching that). Knowing the EU will say no, wrapping herself in the flag, citing EU intransigence, bullying, elitism and all the rest? Would Theresa May pull such a cheap stunt?
Don’t bet against it. One look at the front pages from the right-leaning press shows they are already singing from her hymn-sheet. Even the Times is cheering “May unites Tories behind fresh talks with Brussels”, with the Telegraph preferring “May takes the Brexit battle back to Brussels”. It’s not our problem, it’s for the ghastly foreigners to sort out.
What Theresa May will now take to Brussels is a supreme act of bad faith - as well as the confirmation that Brexit always was a Tory project, a last desperate throw of the dice to hold together a fracturing party. But it is also a means to a predictably grubby end: maybe the only way where that Downing Street election war game returns her to power.
The country may go down the shitter, hundreds of thousands of jobs may go - for good - most of the electorate may become significantly poorer, but all that worries the Tory Party and its delusional supporters is how to keep hold of the levers of power. Read and weep.
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