From Davos to D-Day
Watching Nick Park’s $50 million cartoon Early Man, you realise that the depth of England’s Brexit-related crisis is deeper and graver than you suspected. Here the creator of the brilliant Curse of the Were Rabbit, Shawn the Sheep and The Wrong Trousers has gone Full Farage. Nasty effete foreigners are lampooned and plucky red-shirted underdogs overcome the odds to defy the moneyed but corrupt bureaucrats to win the day. Its a dire film but it’s also an insight into the post-Brexit mindset, all mired in self-doubt, false grievance and cringeworthy myth-making.
Now we have the rumour mill grinding-out finely milled whispers that the strong and Stable One may be for the chop. Editorials are spinning, ministers are leaking and Big Beasts are giving the equivalent of the Shoogley Peg endorsements. There’s talk of the ‘window closing on her leadership’.
The esteemed Laura Kuenssberg explains:
“With EU guidelines out tomorrow, Brexit transition talks getting under way, v restive backbenches, and PM out of the country this week, it has the makings of a very, very bumpy few days.”
It’s astonishing that she’s lasted this long. After her disastrous election, her appalling handling of the Brexit negotiation and of course the worst speech in history, the only thing that has kept her in No 10 has been the existential dread brought on by the thought of a Corbyn government, and the absolutely dire alternatives baying for her blood uselessly around her.
The hope for an olive branch to be extended from Trumpland in the form of a favourable trade deal looks less and less likely. The only thing being extended was a tiny groping hand to be placed on her posterior. Rather than being her saviour – the Special Relationship may be a key player in her downfall.
Of course this week marked the first anniversary of the day when the Great Murdo Fraser tweeted (on the subject of the PM’s visit to America): “Whisper it, but this Theresa May visit to the US is turning into something of a triumph”.
If the great horny halfwit on the other side of the pond offers no answers for our beleaguered premier, neither does the German Chancellor, as Robert Peston recounts in some detail.
According to Peston at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Angela Merkel naughtily poked fun at Theresa May, in a secret briefing for journalists.
Here’s what transpired, according to those who were there:
“Merkel said that when she asks Mrs May what she wants the shape of the UK’s relationship with the EU to be, Mrs May says “make me an offer”. To which Mrs Merkel says, “but you’re leaving – we don’t have to make you an offer. Come on what do you want? To which Mrs May replies “make me an offer”. And so, according to Mrs Merkel, the two find themselves trapped in a recurring loop of “what do you want?” and “make me an offer”. At its telling, the hacks laughed uproariously – though I am not sure this is so funny for the UK. Merkel and May’s comedy skit reflects a deep and uncomfortable truth for the government and country – which is that Theresa May and her cabinet haven’t yet decided what our future trading relationship with the EU should look like, because (to state the bloomin’ obvious) ministers are at loggerheads over this. But good news! The negotiations that matter start in earnest this week: not between the UK and Brussels, or even the UK and Germany, but between the erstwhile Remainers Hammond, Rudd and Clark on the one hand and the arch Brexiteers Gove and Johnson on the other.”
Like a rookie bluffing with an empty hand she now has Grant Shapps, Heidi Allen (“Good God we need to get a grip and lead. We are letting this country down”) and others leading from the front.
It’s a sign of how desperate the Conservatives are that “controversial Defence Secretary” Gavin Williamson – who no-one had heard of till only a few short weeks ago – is being talked about as a likely future frontrunner for Tory leader.
Meanwhile, in a statement about as subtle as Nick Park’s red-shirted Stone Age football team allusion – backbencher Nadine Dorries, an ally of Boris Johnson, said she could say “almost categorically” he was not behind briefings about Williamson.
The Guardian reports that: “Under Conservative party rules, a vote of no confidence would be held if 15% of MPs – 48 under current parliamentary arithmetic – write to the chair of the backbench 1922 committee, Graham Brady. One report in the Sun last week suggested as many as 40 may already have done so.”
As the Brexit omnishambles unfolds the only thing keeping May in post is the collective incompetence of her enemies. Theresa May is an opportunist but she is now caught between the hard-right of her Brexiteer zealots and the more rational wing who are exasperated by the heaving mass of humiliation that is her premiership.
A No 10 Spokesman today attempted a reassuring tone saying: “PM Will Set Out Vision For Future Relationship With EU In Due Course” – to which Marina Hyde replied: “Mate, we passed Due Course three towns ago”.
The impression of time passing her by is palpable and it will take more than a dodgy linesman and a late goal to save the day.
If 2017 was a Close Shave, 2018 may be the year May is Flushed Away.