May Lives On

By | 2018-12-15T00:08:06-07:00 December 14th, 2018|
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If there is one saving grace to pluck from the laughable wreckage that is British politics, it’s that Theresa May, still prime minister, has promised to stand down.

After surviving an attempt on her premiership this week, May clings on—her Brexit deal clutched firmly to her chest in spite of the fact that the risk of anyone wanting to relieve her of it is infinitesimally remote. Like a Doberman clamping a prized branch between its jaws, May keeps gnawing.

The drama ends with May safe in her job for 12 months; which is one year too long. But 117 of her own lawmakers voting no-confidence in her leadership wasn’t enough to make it otherwise. In any case, it was a number denuded by her promises to not fight the next election. The other 200 backed May.

And the reality hasn’t changed. May’s deal, in current form at least, has zero chance of passing through the House of Commons. Brexiteers detest it. Remainers don’t like it. After all, the threat of triple-digit defeat forced May to delay Tuesday’s vote.

May now heads back to Brussels, in the pointless hope that EU bosses will hand her a lifeline by exorcising their deal of the hated Irish backstop, which, if triggered, ties Britain to EU laws and regulations. Critics rightly fear this is Brexit in name only.

There’s little chance of the EU budging on that. May will probably return with less than she had when she arrived.

But there is a positive from all this. May has promised to not fight the next general election set for 2022. A promise in which anyone still unrecovered from her last disaster can take succor. She made the prankish socialist and Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, seem viable to almost 40 percent of the country.

Still, she hangs on. And she won’t be here in 12 months. She has accepted that Brexit is her hill to die on. Finally.

Hell, if she manages to finagle legal guarantees from the EU assuring of the hated backstop’s temporary and last-resort nature, she might just get her deal through Parliament.

Speaking to the BBC after the vote, arch-Euroskeptic Jacob Rees-Mogg, said he would be open to back the deal if such assurances were made. If Mogg can find compromise, then his 80-plus European Research Group lawmakers would likely join him.

That is significant. Rees-Mogg is the kind of Euroskeptic one would grow in a petri-dish.

The reality of a divided nation, and government, is congealing. The mood, according to a friend of mine and aide of a middle-ranking Brexiteer lawmaker, suggests the anti-EU faction wants to take a slice of the loaf now, and come back for more.

Both my friend and the lawmaker he works for are staunch Brexiteers, but they’re not stupid. After reassurances from the prime minister, that lawmaker voted in confidence of May. He’s no wilting flower.

Fewer than 60 lawmakers truly want a no-deal Brexit, the aide tells me. The expected shock, though already priced into markets, would give the likes of Tony Blair and the ultra-Remainers the despair they need for their real desire.

That’s a second referendum, which they quite laughably call a “People’s Vote.” We’ve already had one, of course, and I can attest that people—the most in our history, actually—were quite heavily involved. Perhaps we are the wrong kind, if Blair and his ilk could glance truthfully for a second.

So, as May will no doubt repeat incessantly as the March 29 deadline approaches: it’s her deal, or no Brexit at all.

Or Prime Minister Corbyn. Another notion once so laughable it prompted many Conservatives to pay £3 and ensure hapless Corbyn won the Labour leadership.

Though an avuncular and fluffy character, the real Jeremy Corbyn seeps through during interviews in which his host has the temerity to ask him a question. Prodded off his perch of piety, “Jeremy” dissolves into intemperate spite.

He campaigned as a common-sense social democrat, but anyone familiar with Corbyn’s history knows he rubs shoulders with some dreadful people. A barely concealed teenage angst is encased in his near-70 years.

That’s enough to scare Conservatives straight. But, like a great many Republicans in America, our Tories haven’t grasped the new reality in which we find ourselves.

A Brexit Britain would need a Brexit prime minister. And one capable of melding together a people rent down the middle.

Though the left-leaning media cannot admit it, Boris Johnson fits the bill and would be immensely popular. He’s already well-regarded as a two-time mayor of progressive London. Everyone knows Boris.

After we voted to leave the EU, Boris was a shoo-in for prime minister. But his characteristic (and usually endearing) loucheness led to key allies popping his bid before it got off the ground. It’s one thing to file your $300,000-a-year column with seconds to deadline, another to fudge the little details of leading a country of 62 million people.

Saying that, Boris, who visited my hometown a while back, is the only politician I’ve seen to command a long orderly queue of people lining up for a selfie. I don’t think Theresa May, bless her, knows what a selfie is.

But she does know how to muddle on through and grind out the little details. Which is why she is still prime minister, and perhaps why Boris is not.

Photo credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Image

About the Author:

Christopher Gage
Christopher Gage is a British political journalist.