Are we facing another summer snap General Election? And if we are, can Corbyn win it?
It had all been going so well for Prime Minister Theresa May. Last Friday, she held a Cabinet “away-day”. The elected wing of the UK Government camped out at the PM’s country house, surrendering their phones and talking Brexit all day. The Prime Minister explained her latest plans for Brexit – a crumbly fudge, with a trade agreement (to keep the UK economy afloat) and sovereignty over immigration (to appease the raving right).
Having assured us all she had Cabinet back for the plan and collective responsibility was once more in place, May prepared to meet the House of Commons on Monday. And then it all began to unravel.
Late on Sunday night came the devastating news that David Davis, Minister for Brexit, had resigned from the Government. He believed that the PM’s plan was just too soft to be accepted by Europe – or the British people.
As with any other earthquake, after the major event come the aftershocks. There were reports that the Junior Brexit Ministers Steve Baker and Suella Braverman were also going to quit. It’s not that they can’t be replaced – but to replace your whole Brexit team this late in the game is a nightmare. It’s like the England Cricket captain trying to pick a team from a squad with no bowlers.
To add insult to injury, the dream team of the hard Brexit right have come out fighting. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said May’s plans were an attempt to “polish a turd” – to her face, to her face! And Jacob Rees-Mogg has accused her of trying to “bounce” ministers into agreeing with her (he is always less colourful than Boris, of course).
Boris grew to be thought of as a harmless old buffoon after his appearances on “Have I Got News For You”. Alarmingly, Rees-Mogg has been on the same programme in recent months. Boris and Jacob: what a dream team that would be for the Tory right. It might even pull Nigel Farage back into the fold.
There were rumours that other Cabinet Ministers would go in the morning – putting the maximum pressure on the PM at the latest possible time, too late for her to find a Plan B. Such tactics can only mean one thing: the Tory right is prepared to go to the country with a new, hard right, racist, UKIP-like message, in order to get a hard Brexit – and a new, no holds barred, reactionary and properly right wing Tory Government.
At any other time, you’d be palming your forehead with horror at the stupidity of going to the country just when the Tories rely on the DUP to maintain a parliamentary majority and when UKIP has finally been revealed to be a spent force at the polls. Stop, think: it’s the perfect time for the Tory Right to make a run for it.
They can use all the racist arguments which clinched the Brexit referendum majority. If the Tories win a General Election, the Right will get the credit and can take over. If they lose, they can blame Theresa May and her soft Brexit approach while they re-group. Of course it’s a gamble – but so is every General Election.
Theresa May is pointing out that a Tory split on Brexit and a General Election is the best way to usher Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street there is. But no one believes her. The Tory Right have their eye fixed firmly on the target – a thoroughly nationalist, xenophobic, right wing campaign, with calls to make Britain Great again, to allow us to make trade deals with the (fairly invisible) list of nations outside the EU rather than be tied down by the EU (on which so much of our trade depends)
As for Labour, rebel MPs – including many in East London, such as Rushanara Ali and Wes Streeting – have spent the last months pouring scorn on Jeremy Corbyn from one direction or another. Had they kept their traps shut, or had they spent the last few months working with their equally dim colleagues in the Midlands to counter petty nationalism and win back the Labour vote, their Party and their Leader could have arrived at this juncture in British politics with authority. Instead, both Leader and Party have been weakened by months of being pushed and pummelled into making premature mini policy statements aimed more at appeasing their own members than inspiring the country.
On paper, it is the Tory right which does the most harm. But never underestimate the power of the numpties of the Labour right to out-do them in the task of putting the boot into Labour.