Friday 24 May 2019

May's Legacy is Worse Than Brexit Failure

There is a great deal of ruin in a nation"   (Adam Smith)

We are not yet holed below the water line; but a lot of the rigging has been shot away, and ammunition expended.  Captain May had no idea how to fight the ship (who does?) but lost important early actions, and has steered us incompetently into dangerous waters.  Mutiny threatens.  The sharks are circling; and the depths below us are unplumbed.  Brexit?  That's just for starters.

How much of our present plight can fairly be laid at May's door?  It is not clear to me which plausible alternative Tory PM would for certain have commenced a purposeful Brexit camapign in 2016, knowing (as we now do) that the Civil Service is not up to, nor up for, the tasks that necessarily come their way in this regard.  Which of Gove, Johnson, or Leadsom (I discard Crabb, Davis and Fox) would have taken the necessary steps in the necessary timeframe - setting proper expectations; immediately hiring the best negotiators and lawyers the City has to offer; making Civil Service obstruction a pension-forfeiting offence; moving onto a 'war' footing on every front - to give the enterprise its best chance of success?

But there are two monstrous mis-steps that are May's and May's alone.  The first is symbolic, the second diabolic.

One of her first acts as PM was to call in the Hinkley Point C decision.  As was right and proper: this was always an Osborne project and the panicky French realised it was at risk.  After years of prevaricating (and still to this day with no final design for the business end of the reactors!) they rushed to sign the draft agreements at a speed which betrayed their utter desperation.  Ho ho.

So what happened next?  Did May parlay this into Brexit-enabling commitments by the Frog?  Did she hold Hinkley hostage against a successful Brexit outcome?  Nope: Hollande told her sternly to sign without further ado and, meekly, she did.  A clear omen of the awful things to come, as we confidently predicted at the time.  This was a May classic, signalling to the whole of the 27 that she was there for the taking.  And I really don't imagine any other PM would have enacted this craven calamity.

The second, though, could have much longer-lasting consequences.  This was the 2017 GE - not the calling of it per se (for which there was a fair rationale), but her disastrous, hubristic personal conduct of it**.

Because Corbyn was there for the slaughter.  Had the campaign been just one week shorter she would have returned with a majority.  Had it not included several wholly avoidable faux pas, that majority could have been pretty decent.   This might have been helpful in the Brexit context, or not (given that Dominic Grieve would still have been one of those MPs) - but that's not the point.

The point is that Corbyn would have been defenestrated.

At Labour HQ, the coup was ready, the locks had been changed, and the marxists would have been sent back to their rightful obscurity to rant at each other in dingy halls.  By giving Corbyn a new lease of life, May has given every 'woke' bedsit dweller of whatever age to understand that there is an alternative to rolling back under their sordid duvets in apathetic political lassitude.   We weren't crushed at the election.  Hell, if we all glue ourselves to a bridge, we can change the world!   And so every idiot malcontent is now crawling out of bed, possessed of the idea they can realise their fondest fantasies.

For ordinary folk wishing simply for the world to be competently run, it is really quite important that fantasists with too much time on their hands confine their crapulous activities to passing motions in the students union.  As will always be the case in a benign democracy, if they all turn up at once there are too may of them to be restrained by reasonably peaceful means.  For many a long decade, they haven't chosen to force the point (at least, not in this country), thus enabling honest people to get on with their lives.

I greatly fear that their tails are well and truly up now, and that they will be increasingly strident - and gratified - in their demands.  Not, of course, that most of what they want can actually be delivered (although some of the nastiest gesture-politics can be), but that craven politicians pander to them as though it can (witness "legally binding" targets for CO2 emissions, which is only the start).  Such nonsense and waste of resources can go on for years before the gig's up, as it always will be eventually.

And of course in the ranks of the politicos are not only the craven, but the unscrupulous: slavering at the prospects of enlisting these idiots as a battering-ram for their *Revolution*.  If Tusk is right about there being a special place in Hell for those who pretended Brexit would be easy, there's an even hotter spot for those who would direct a Children's Crusade.

A better result in GE 2017 could have sent the innocents home sadder and wiser.  By screwing up, May has put wind in their sails.  Will habitual idleness, short attention-span or frustration with Corbyn's fence-sitting be enough to send them back to their games consoles?  Perhaps.  But maybe not.

"The impatience, bordering into contempt, for the political class and the amount of hostility and borderline violence is something we have not known for a very very long time."  (Damian Green, this morning)


** and we never wish to hear again from Nick Timothy, either


Al said...

Gove managed to make changes in education and environment.
I don't see why he wouldn't have been able to get a similar grip on the civil service had he been PM.

In hindsight if he hadn't withdrawn his backing for Johnson then we would have most likely been in a very different place. (Johnson with the bravado and positive relationship with the US, Gove behind the scenes managing EU negotiations and civil service preparation).

Bill Quango MP said...

It has to be Johnson now. Huge riskthat that is, there is no choice.
Its probably too late now, but no one else can stop the flood of voters leaving the party.

Johnson has many faults. But he is a wartime politician. And the Tory party is at war.

At war with Corbyn and the communists. At war with the Liberals and their EU Federalism.

At war with Farage and the easy options.

At war with the Lords. With the Speaker. With the CBI. With the media. With the ecology factions. With the Remain MPs. The Wets, nats,DUPs and the Civil Service.

A wartime leader is essetial if there is to be any hope of surviing May's Dunkirk negotiations. The coming European Union 'no negotiation is possible' Blitz. And the economy folding like Singapore.

The darkest days are those ahead.

david morris said...

Quite defeatist BQ

All that is needed is someone with a spine to sally over the Bruxxels to conduct the negotiation as per the instruction given to the political class in June 2016

Anonymous said...

But do the Tories have anyone with a spine ? Especially as after all the demonstrations of jellyfishiness in the past three years, any spine will have to be extra stiff.

Don Cox

Anonymous said...

Johnson could do it.
My concern is that the jellies in the HOC won’t allow it.

dearieme said...

"The impatience, bordering into contempt..."


Anonymous said...

If Boris does become leader, one of the critical tasks is to neuter the Brexit party ahead of the next GE.

Maybe offering Farage to become part of the negotiating team with the EU could be interesting.

AndrewZ said...

"Johnson has many faults. But he is a wartime politician."

Johnson is the complete opposite of a wartime politician. He's a bluffer who makes it up as he goes along and then tries to bluster his way out of trouble. He has no discernible principles or ideology and doesn't stand for anything beyond the advancement of his own career. That's not the kind of person you need when it's time to make hard decisions with serious consequences.

It's the kind of person who is suited to being PM in the easy times when everything is going fine and people want a leader who will be content to enjoy the trappings of office and not really try to change anything. He would have been a decent Prime Minister for that period in the 1990s when people talked about "the end of history", but not for today.

AndrewZ said...

Calling a GE in 2017 was a mistake because the Conservatives had no reason for doing so other than the belief that it would give them an increased majority. They assumed that people would have to vote for them because Corbyn was so awful, but it was so obvious what they were doing that it provoked a backlash. The effect of taking peoples' votes for granted was to make many people want to punish their arrogance by voting for somebody else.

Nick Drew said...

AZ - @ because the Conservatives had no reason for doing so other than the belief that it would give them an increased majority

there was another important reason - to push out the next GE to 2022

we may yet live to be grateful for that, at least

Charlie said...

Peston's just been on the telly saying that Boris would have to hold a GE in Autumn and would have to get a no deal exit through parliament. Both statements are bollocks but indicative of the narrative that will be pushed this summer.

Anonymous said...

"He has no discernible principles or ideology and doesn't stand for anything beyond the advancement of his own career."

Sounds about right. Who wants to bet on whether Boris thinks his career will be more advanced by Brexit, by Mrs May's Bremain, or by Remain?

(He can scrap pretty well on his own behlaf - can he do it for Britain? We know Mrs May can't - and that was really all, even after her won goals, that she had to do. When has this nation failed to support a PM in a ding-dong against Europeans?)

Raedwald said...

Having had some experience of Boris during his two terms as Mayor of London, his M.O. was apparent. To the great relief of the Livingstone created permanent establishment, there was no great clear out at County Hall. Boris demanded lots of photo ops and PAs and having his name linked to myriad feel-good initiatives; he shifted some resources out to London's blue doughnut, boroughs that had been starved under Livingstone, and allowed the hawks in the Met to have their way. Apart from the bendy bus replacement cockup and the water cannons, he was generally socially liberal, laissez faire and allowed his officials to get on with it.

Not, as AndrewZ says, a wartime politician. On the plus side he's popular - people like him in the way they like the Dulux dog - inoffensive and has the common touch. Which means he can win elections. And is our best chance of keeping Corbyn out.

A hard, heartless Chancellor (Govey?) and a seriously tough Europe Minister (with a Cabinet seat - Raab?) given their head - with a much slimmed down cabinet, anda willingness to form an electoral comnpact with Farage, may just work.

However, it would mean our Party moving clearly to an Internationalist position - with every single member viscerally committed to Britain's ability to thrive as a sovereign nation state, independent of supranational authority or Globalist robbery. I won't say moving to te right - the old distinctions of left and right are becoming increasingly redundant as distinguishing marks.

So, a socially liberal, small State government that rolls back the nannying and prodnosing of the Cameron and May years, genuine reform of Lords, honours, electoral commission, political funding, local government, a shift in focus to our anglophone allies, Localism but a ruthless line with the EU; a massive employment and skills programme to take advantage *in this country* of AI changes.

That will do me for a start.

The LibDEm wing of the party must suck it up or join the CUKs.

Anonymous said...

"Hearing reports that Juan Guaidó has declared himself the UK Prime Minister"

Anonymous said...

Raedwald for PM.

DJK said...

Has to be BoJo. A lot of the criticisms of him are fair comment. But they echo the criticisms against Churchill in the late 1930s and the early part of the war. (Yes, I know --- an invidious comparison.) The fact that BJ is lazy and attention seeking doesn't matter, provided he picks a competent team to do the actual work in the background.

One of May's many problems was that she trusted nobody and so felt she had to micromanage the whole process herself. Far better to have a showman out front with a strong backroom team (Gove, Raab, the best of the City, etc.) behind him.

andrew said...

Depends what you want from a pm.
- keep the union going
- deliver brexit
- free bananas for all (eric morecambe in that case)
- make the country fit for the future

Pick one.

Then pick the candidate that best fits what you want.

Just like any other job.

E-K said...

Thud - What I heard yesterday was a hard left Labour PM giving a resignation speech... oops ! It was Theresa May !

Tory wets have destroyed both party and country. Corbyn is coming but his party's effects will be limited by the same deep state that kyboshed Brexit.

E-K said...

Raedwald with Budgie as adviser, Anon.

Wherever is Budgie btw ???

Nick Drew said...

as far as C@W is concerned, off in a huff, as I recall

not the first

(we aren't everyone's cuppa tea - probably our inate incivility...)

Raedwald said...

He's disappeared from my manor, too. But then some folk have been busy over the past few weeks ..

Bill Quango MP said...

There should be no new PM.
Just leave the vacancy. With the current crop from all parties,

No Prime Minister is better than a bad Prime Minister.

Anonymous said...

If "No Prime Minister is better than a bad Prime Minister"

Then staying consistent with the current Gov's actions after such statments they should be making Corbyn prime minister, without bothering with an election.

E-K said...

No disrespect to the founders of this blog, but Budgie had an uncanny predictive knack.


This evening we were at a dinner party and my wife told a story of us camping in Germany.

"I can't remember if we were married or not at the time."

I said "Definitely unmarried."

"How can you be so sure ?"

"You gave me a blow job in the tent."

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't think it is going to be Boris. The Parliamentary sections of the party are in an Anyone But Boris mood again by the looks of it.

Could be that, when voting, the Tory MPs have a spasm of doubt and vote for him in the hope he'll keep their seat safe.

I don't know why Jeremy Hunt is standing, is he completely unaware that he's the concept of revulsion given mortal form?

I'm expecting Matt Hancock to come through though, slithering through John Major style.

Although I think maybe Priti Patel would be a good foil for Corbyn. Female. From a African/Indian background. Got in trouble for chatting to the notably Jewish nation of Israel.

The kind of opponent the Spartosaurus, and his merry band of middle-class, white-privilege-poster-children trustfarians, would find difficult to attack without finding themselves in a pool of politically correct shit.

Suff said...

May has done what she was instructed to do, thwart Brexit and hang on long enough to make it difficult for a successor to achieve. Knowing this rejection of democracy would be political suicide for any party in government, she tried to throw the election ( why else would she bring up the subject of fox hunting. An activity so abhorrent to 99% of the populace and seen as a pastime of the elite). Unable to do this she kept the EU surrender agreement hidden from the public until the last minute.
I thank god that we had JC in opposition through this period ( though I prey he never makes it to PM). Though he has been unable to state it ( and loose the support of his young voters) he is on record as being anti EU before he became leader. While I disagree with EVERYTHING else he stands for, His persistent fence sitting on this position ( even at the cost of splitting his own party) is the only thing that has protected us from the Mays dreadful capitulation agreement.
And can we stop with the remainer terminology. There will be no such thing as “ no deal”. Capitalism does not leave a vacuum. Bypass the EU which is again sliding into recession and offer trade deals with the individual states and let’s see how committed the people of the Union are. First order of the day. Take our new empty aircraft carriers down to Italy and say we’re here to buy some cheap plonk :-) . We can fit a few million crates in here.

AndrewZ said...

"I'm expecting Matt Hancock to come through"

Quite possible. It could well come down to who has the fewest enemies amongst their fellow MPs, in which case Johnson and Gove are out and only relatively obscure figures like Hancock have any chance at all.

AndrewZ said...

Suff - "offer trade deals with the individual states"

The structure and functioning of the EU is defined by international treaties signed by the member states. As part of those treaties, they have given up the right to make their own trade deals. Therefore, any member state which tries to make its own deal with Britain would be in breach of its treaty obligations to the other member states. It would face an immediate backlash from them and from the institutions of the EU. It would also be telling the rest of the world that it couldn't be trusted to honour the treaties it signed, which would greatly complicate all its international relations. The costs would far outweigh any possible gains from increased trade with Britain.

Anonymous said...


Yeah, dreams of setting up trade deals with individual EU member states is pure fantasy.

Realistically it's No Deal or Revoke without some major event.

Thinking about it, maybe three or more months back the EU would have been inclined to go back to the table, but when you look at it from their POV. They turned up, negotiated as best they could. Even did May's homework for her.

Now, had the negotiations been a boxing match, it'd have been stopped in round one as it was evident one competitor had been preparing the bout with a good diet and workout, and the other had prepared with box sets, cheap lager and pizzas.

They negotiated very well - look at the carbon credits farrago with British Steel - we... Didn't. The Poor Widdle Bwitain and the Terrible, Bad, No-Good EU Bullies routine I see in some places isn't just inane, but makes us look like we're easy prey to any operator sharper than a retard. Not a great advert.

So, why - after taking a few hits to try and spare our blushes - should they go back to the table? They're confident at being able to soak up the consequences of No Deal, and if they're wrong, they've a handy political scapegoat in us.

Macron is plainly fed up of us, and swallowed a longer extension than he wanted. Not seeing that happen again, and certainly not seeing a return to the table.

I'll be happy to be pleasantly surprised and to be proven wrong, but this leadership campaign is all about who can either deliver the Very Bad News to one group of people, or can valiantly lose a General Election and ensure it's Somebody Else's Problem whilst the Tories go find a political first aid kit.

Anonymous said...

I see the UK turnout for the Euros is as crap as last time, a mere 2% up, and my anecdotal evidence says that 2% is probably Remainers. We shall see. I think it's 38% as compared with 72% or so for the Referendum.

So I don't think it'll necessarily be a Farage whitewash, and Greens and Lib Dems will do well, despite the Lib Dem policy being to reverse the result of a democratic poll that they agreed to. Then the whole thing can be spun as "no appetite for Brexit and surge in Remain".

It's been an odd last couple of weeks, with the media all pushing Farage and hardly a mention of "Tommy Robinson, whose real name is something Yaxley-Lennon". It's funny how they didn't do that with Ján Hoch or Michael Hecht.

Leadsom for PM!

MyInspirationalName said...

Silly, intemperate article.

BQ seems despondent seeing the 'darkest days ahead' and s/he is correct.

But the historical analogy is off, if only slightly; The EU is the UK.

The Tories are now Sinn Fein.

The May/Cameron era was your John Redmond (in Englander terms your Chamberlain) phase; You properly fucked up a fairly easy situation for lack of pressing an advantage.

What happened next was that after a period of attrition and eventual stalemate you elected a DeValera while sacrificing a Collins; a mistake of universal proportions which influenced, molded and profoundly damaged the national psyche for generations. This is the measure of your State and, if my thesis is correct - you will reject a potentially monumental figure in your history for short-term nationalist arseholery; The victory of the Gammon.
More than that, the Northern part of your country will cede and remain part of the Union you tried to extract yourself from.

Its all so obvious, it shouldnt need to be written at all.

BQ is indeed correct - dark days lie ahead, but Irish eyes are smiling... will England lift its visage to meet them?

Nick Drew said...

M*N - interesting that you view your latest comment as 'inspirational'. I think you are falling back on the 500-year view of history, at which point the heart-rate can certainly subside and we can all be 'temperate' because we all know shit happens / so sometimes it can happen to us / c'est la vie / pass the port

In the meantime, some seriously nasty stuff can happen and, personally, I'm not the emigrating kind. So forgive the lack of cool.

Your recent comments have centred on the future of the Union (and why not, it looms large - along with how London looks so very different from all of England) and I have to say that right now I cannot see any political ju-jitsu that lands the SNP on its backside, nor anybody plotting one. McDonnell has a baleful plan for E&W: Farage thrashes around easily in those waters, too. But your Stewart solution is, I think (and you think) a little too romantic to be plausible. Then again, people said that about Corbyn's candidacy in 2015

So: Sinn Fein it is. Fall back to the family-friendly rugby clubs across the West and the North and the Midlands and the East, the beer and the politically incorrect songs (and watch out, PC Plod from the Met if you pole up to arrest anyone for it). Oh yes, and ...

Anonymous said...

MiN seems to be indulging in the same sort of schadenfreude I noticed in Dublin a month or two back.

Bill Quango MP said...

The BBC and Sky are both reporting that the Liberal Democrat’s have won the European Elections by coming second.

Anonymous said...

@BQ - not been watching Sky, but that's unfair on the BBC. They've accurately pointed out the LibDems have bounced back from a low base, and that when you take a look at the results the Leave/Remain %ages have moved little, and No Deal/Ref2 are both staying at a round a third of the electorate.

It's been a great night for the Brexit Party, LibDems and the Greens.

Now, the increasingly shrill claims of "this strategy is for the GE, not local or EU elections" on LabourList's Liveblog was hilarious. That would be the GE we're not guaranteed to get for another three years, would it? Although Sienna Rodgers article is worth a read, not least for it's a hat tip to a classic XTC song from my youth.

@MyInspiritionalName - are you referring to Scotland (different country, if so) or t'North of England? Scotland will likely leave after Brexit, although they'll not find entry to the EU easy as Spain will do it's damnedest to veto it. They wouldn't want Catalonia having a Homage to Scotland now...

If you are referring to the North, whilst there are strong devolutionary currents there is no desire to exit England and join the EU. Pop around the Tadcasters, the Bradfords, the Wigans and the Pontefracts and you'll find discontent with London, but no real desire to secede. A cold pint and keen ear in some of the local bars in those places are pretty educational.

Elby the Beserk said...

As in 2016 when the vote is broken down by constituency, it's a huge win for Brexit - pretty much two to one. That's a massive slap in the face for ALL the other parties - Cons know now thay have to deliver a swift and clean Brexit else it's cheerio.

"“By constituency 406 | Leave 242 Remain”

This is broadly in line with the best estimates available, based on the seats parties won at the 2015 general election, although the numbers are not quite perfect (there are 650 constituencies in the UK, but the numbers in this image only add up to 648)."

E-K said...

What's left to say of the disgraceful MSM/BBC interpretation of a LibDem victory yesterday.

They claim all but the umambiguous Leave parties for Remain. Guido rightly states that Labour and Conservative votes should go to Leave.

What is not mentioned is the biggest party of all - the 60% who did not vote to save our membership of the EU because they did not vote at all.

They can hardly be claimed for Remain so long as article 50 remains.