Sunday 2 December 2018

More Notes on the Tory Crisis

To lose one minister is unfortunate. To lose 18 is, well, something else. The departure of Sam Gyimah marks another unremarkable moment in the crumbling of Theresa May's government. I say unremarkable, because there are plenty of other things going on. According to The Telegraph, Penny Mordaunt has "let it be known" that she "has not backed the deal yet, but had said she will support the Prime Minister." Oh my days. Meanwhile, May carries on up the Khyber seemingly oblivious to her government visibly and ostentatiously decaying in office.

Gyimah's widely-publicised resignation condenses the nervous breakdown the establishment are having. Taking the Galileo satellite navigation system as his jumping off point, he noted that much of the technology and investment was UK-supplied. But with Brexit squatting on the horizon, the UK will lose privileged access to the project and be relegated to third country use. Galileo serves as a microcosm of Brexit. Four decades of investment, collaboration, and economic integration across borders, a section of the establishment - whether remain or leave - appear surprised that Brexit is going to reverse some of this. However, faced with a hit to their power and prestige they are paralysed, preferring either a ridiculous three-way referendum or going along with May's deal because it's the only game in town, and allows for more complex issues to get teed into the long grass.

Nevertheless, May can shrug off Gyimah's resignation because there are more pressing concerns. As Laura Kuenssberg rightly observes, support for May's deal is, if anything, shrinking. May is also facing a constitutional crisis as Parliament is set to demand the full release of the documents detailing the legalities of Brexit. Because the government have already ignored one vote there is a possibility of Labour bringing contempt of Parliament claims against them - a headache May could do without. And if that wasn't enough, we know her premiership could finally collapse entirely when the deal is lost in less than a fortnight's time. If you think you've seen political uncertainty and are fed up with it, expect an unwelcome early Christmas gift.

What Brexit has made possible is an acceleration of the slow burn destruction of the Tories, and its demise moves from future possibility to imminent potential. So I was very pleased to read about the latest wheeze from Conservative central office. Accompanied by a nice website, CCHQ are delivering thousands of postcards to its depleted associations. These party-funded and branded post cards are to be mailed to recalcitrant MPs and pressure them into backing the deal. Most opposition MPs would view the receipt of such post cards as helpful contact information, before filing them down the back of the sofa. Most deliciously it puts Tory deal backers in a head on collision with rebellion-minded Tory MPs, while doing is best to destroy relations between the party and its Brexity activist base. Just as Dave sacrificed UK interests for the narrow electoral purposes of denying UKIP one or two Westminster seats, for May her party is so much an offering to get through a crappy deal she has designated in the state's best interest. I suppose there's some poetic justice in that.

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