The opinion letter sent by Rees-Mogg and his supporters to Theresa May is only the opening salvo in what could very quickly become a constitutional crisis by the end of the year. Forces are out to change Britain forever – and none of them want either Brexit or Cobynist populism to be the victor. The Slog explains why all this could turn very nasty very quickly.
Somewhere between 50 and 70 Conservative MPs have decided to await the results of the local elections, and then tell the Prime Minister she must go. Push has come to shove – and the issue is the dilution of Brexit in general, and the ‘rebranded’ Customs Union weasel in particular.
Internal Tory polls are, I understand, predicting a Conservative Party disaster in the forthcoming local elections. Whitehall is playing down the threat to May (David Liddington is reflecting that) but most of her Party’s Brexiteer backbenchers have decided enough is enough.
I am also told that senior Blairite MPs and image management advisers believe the chances of a Third Party at the next General Election “are higher than at any time since the SDP”.
Not the best of analogies to use I would’ve thought, but there is jubilation in the air over at Labour HQ, where Jeremy Corbyn is so excited he may just put his teeth in for PMQs, and stop trying to gum Mrs May to death.
However, the smarter minds at Momentum and in the Shadow Cabinet know that this is one of those times when you have to be careful what you wish for. So it’s important to gauge how serious all these “events” are, and then look at the broader consequences.
The Corbynistas’ dream outcome is that the Conservatives paper over the cracks about Brexit and soldier on, even weaker after a local election thrashing. It sounds as if the second part of that will come to pass: but the first part may turn into a nightmare for the Left.
Recent focus groups suggest that Theresa May would be the easiest leader to beat as and when the next General Election arrives. They also suggest that Jacob Rees-Mogg would struggle to gain ground in anything beyond Tory strongholds, but that a rumbustuous leadership under Boris Johnson would re-energise former UKIP voters to put their weight behind him rather than a largely Remainer Labour challenge.
The Tory Party as a whole doesn’t want a leadership challenge at all, because it would be horrendously messy. We should assume that Philip Hammond would stand, but he would be more of the same as far as Brexiteers are concerned. Equally, while BoJo might well be the best candidate in electoral terms, a large minority within the Party won’t have him at any price. That leaves Rees-Mogg – the firm favourite of Hard Brexiteers, but unlikely to beat Hammond.
Only a Philip Hammond pledging “real” Brexit stands any chance of creating any workable degree of Party unity. Stranger things have happened, but one of his few convictions is that leaving the EU would be disastrous for Britain.
However, after a calamitous local election outcome, things would change. The first thing all MPs do after local election results is try and assess the threat to their own seat…because without that, they’d have to go out and get a proper job – and that’s the last thing any of them want to do. To my mind, that self-survival would swing a lot of Tories at Westminster away from Hammond and towards Johnson….who would, without doubt, be the preferred Washington/NATO candidate….and who probably has the best grassroots support of any candidate.
A Johnson premiership with Rees-Mogg appointed lead Brexit negotiator would be a Labour nightmare for two reasons: Boris would steal a lot of older Labour pro-UKIP support, but at the same time could act as the catalyst for a Conservative breakaway group. This possibility is being hyped by the ex-Parliamentary Blairite/Remain spinners, who hope to round up deserters from both Parties and create a Britain in Europe Party of some description.
That option would attract enormous under-the-table social media and financial support from the CIA/EUNATO/City axis. But whether we end up with Boris v Corbyn or Boris v 3rd Party v Corbyn, the Hard Left’s hijacking of Labour will stand no mathematical chance whatsoever of gaining power under the FPTP system.
It would produce a stalemate Parliament in which both the Hard Left and Hard Brexiteers would see their aims scuppered – perhaps forever. It will also, in my view, produce a level of civil disturbance from Momentum to UKippers that could see Great Britain reduced to a situation not that far removed from contemporary Italy…and in all probability, the end of the Union itself.
This is because, depending on the level of Tory revival in Scotland – up there, it is no longer a Thatcherite Party in any real sense – the Third ‘Remain’ Party could well do a deal with the SNP – or rule with its more or less guaranteed support.
There is far, far more at stake than Theresa May’s future here. What we may be about to witness is the long-needed break up of an unrepresentative Westminster duopoly…and the end of Britain as an entity, independent of the EU or otherwise. A curate’s egg to say the least of it.
I have doubts about the Centre Remain spinners and their belief in a two-Party breakaway from the Establishment: I think much of what they put about is wishful thinking piss and wind. But whether there is a two Party or three Party election next time, the United Kingdom is now more divided than at any time in its history….and the likelihood of social unrest greater than at any time since the 1920s.