Saturday 10 June 2017

Touring Tory Turmoil

If you listen hard enough, you might hear echoing off the hills the curdling screams of a Tory party in distress. I cannot lie, as a socialist, a labour movement person, and a Labour Party member I have waited a long, long time to see some proper blue-on-blue action. And what makes it all the sweeter is that a left wing leader on a left wing manifesto administered the initial kicking. With a confidence and supply arrangement fixed up with the crooks and the cranks of the Democratic Unionists, the damage is piling up. To have lost your majority so carelessly and needlessly is one thing. But to forge a pact with the most terrifyingly backward political party in Westminster is quite another. All that time, that careful time Dave spent detoxifying the Tories at least where gay rights and reproductive rights were concerned lies in tatters. This is short termism in extremis, the worst thing the Tories could do from their point of view.

To not feel schadenfreude is to not be human.

While this is tres enjoyable, a number of folks are shocked by the mess and worried about what this means for the Brexit negotiations. To be honest, I don't think there is much to be concerned about. The most ruinous, stupid, catastrophic course of action has receded somewhat: we are probably on course for a much softer, much less damaging departure from the European Union. How so? There simply isn't a majority in the House for a hard Brexit. Theresa May's napkin scribbles and whimsies over elevenses - to call them a plan would distort the language - only stood a chance of passing if she commanded a majority. However, Tory remainers and wets have had more weight thrust upon them thanks to the election debacle and with May's authority gone, they won't go for it. There is the small matter of the DUP too. They talk a good Brexit when they're not putting women on trial for seeking an abortion, but not at the expense of a hard border with the Republic. Therefore a soft Brexit orientation, like the one Labour has been pushing, has a greater chance of passing with cross-party support. Either way, the Tories descend into civil war and a soft Brexit makes a UKIP revival more likely in all those Tory-held constituencies again. Believe me, their agony is matched by my ecstasy.

What of Theresa May? She is yesterday's woman, and deservedly so after the the worst campaign in modern British history. Swapping Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill won't keep the Tory wolves from Number 10's door either, even with the drafting in of Gavin "Gizza Job" Barwell as chief of staff. A hard man of the Norman Tebbit variety he is not. With Tory MPs calling for her head, Johnson and friends on manoeuvres, Ruth Davidson going for a power grab over the control of the Scottish Tories, and the members want her gone, too, it is incredibly difficult to see how she can hold on. Perhaps she should ask Jeremy Corbyn for some advice? Yet there are things would-be challengers must think about before plunging in the knife.

Hard or soft, Brexit comes with political penalties. The most obvious is the damage it will do to the economy. If say Johnson makes his move and he's PM by next Wednesday, his reputation - which definitely isn't what it used to be - is going to take a hit, damaging his chances ahead of another general election. It therefore doesn't suit anyone's interests to be that leader in the medium term. May on the other hand is broken, so why not let her limp on to oversee the Brexit negotiations and hope that any toxicity will go into the ground when they come to bury her career afterwards? That would seem sensible. The second issue is Tory factionalism itself. There are plenty of Tory MPs who hate Johnson, there are plenty of Tory MPs who hate "call me" Philip Hammond, plenty who hate David Davis, Liam Fox, IDS, Gove, you get the picture. Ambitious folks on the backbenches, like Heidi Allen, are not going to throw their hats into the ring either. What this amounts to is an absurdist drama where everyone's united against May. The lack of confidence in her strikes a weird equilibrium that could get them through the next couple of years as they settle into a temporary non-aggression treaty - at the price of abandoning everything else in the manifesto.

I've just checked, in the half-hour it's taken to write to this point Theresa May is still Prime Minister. With every second that passes her survival as a caretaker PM becomes more likely. But whatever happens, as the fall out of the election continues settling down, it's the Tories and their future chances that will bear the brunt of the poison.


WorldbyStorm said...

Fantastic. Long may it continue. Just a quick word to say how useful your posts have been in relation to the campaign.

1729torus said...

The DUP are going to drive a hard bargain, you don't get to the top in NI by being stupid

The Tories will weaken in the polls with time, the economy will weaken, and Labour will consolidate, making it harder and harder for the Tories to call an election and get away from the DUP. May will be able to play on this fear to help avoid being defensterated.

Like Enda Kenny's year in office since early 2016, this lame duck period will hurt the Tories. They'll have nothing to show for their time in office. It's worth noting that Leo Varadkar was unable to call an election since winning the leadership as well, and is showing signs of being unable to escape the rut Fine Gael find themselves in. The polling hasn't improved at all.

johnny conspiranoid said...

not forgeting the DUP's relationship with loyalist terrorists.

Shai Masot said...

It's not all good news. Jess Phillips retained her seat.

James Semple said...

Survation poll - the only one close to the actual result - now predicts a Labour government if we poll tomorrow. What will happen as time goes by?

David Timoney said...

"There simply isn't a majority in the House for a hard Brexit". But nor is there a majority for a Tory flavoured Soft Brexit. In other words, May could find herself between a rock and a hard place if she tries to craft a policy that maintains clear blue water between the government and opposition. The nightmare scenario is a three-way division, with the Tories split, prompting another election and a heavy defeat for the Conservatives.

The rational approach would be to reach out to Labour and cite the national interest, but May cannot do that while Corbyn is in charge (a delicious irony, no?), and even if a weasel like Ummuna were leader this would mean publicly ceding control of Brexit. Even if she were capable of finessing the embarrassment to her party, this is simply a manoeuvre that is pyschologically beyond her. What is needed in the PM today is not strength and stability but subtlety and cunning. May ain't no Wilson.

Lidl_Janus said...

"It's not all good news. Jess Phillips retained her seat."

Yes. Fuck the people of Birmingham Yardley for, err, following your advice.

Anonymous said...

There is no getting away from the fact the behaviour of Phillips in the past two years has been appalling. Hopefully her relative quiet since the result means she is engaging in some overdue self-reflection.

I hope so, she genuinely has talent behind the schtick.