Last week’s dramatic return to Parliament saw the Conservatives fall to factional strife, losing 22 MPs over five days. Amber Rudd also announced her resignation in The Sunday Times. With the ‘Resistance Bill’ awaiting Royal Assent, the fuse is running short for the ‘natural party’ of government.
First published in September 2019.
Imagine you’ve just started a dream job as a business manager. The application process and interview were brilliant displays of your knowledge and experience. You walk into the office head held high, greeting your colleagues with a smile. They are surprised by your directions, some openly critical of the company’s new approach. And as such, you decide to sack them for thinking for themselves. Some of those whose desks you helped clear were employees for 30+ years. But this is your leadership now – you were born for this role, and will sit in the swivel chair until the company goes bankrupt.
It’s an analogy, okay? Don’t go sitting atop a moral high ground based on my rather stretched allegory. Boris Johnson would probably prefer some Homeric tale of how he crushed the opposition within his party on a golden chariot, under the watchful spirit of some twerp at the Telegraph. The fact is, his first week into the parliamentary schedule was an instant case of fizzling out. A bit like he’d blown up a balloon, and let it feebly fly across the Commons spreading his acidic spittle on the opposition.
And oh boy, was there a raucous opposition. Jeremy Corbyn put on his best cap and did a remarkably solid performance as Johnson’s rival. I mean, the bar wasn’t set particularly high, but Corbyn was the most statesmanlike we’ve ever seen him. Jo Swinson has become the parliamentary equivalent of an orphanage. She takes in the weak and wounded from across the floor, buffing them up with a bit of polish and sending them down to Bournemouth for their conference.
The ‘Remain Alliance’ appeared to hold together amidst a worrying tidal wave of aggression. MPs were (relatively) respectful of each other, kept to the anti no-deal lines, and showed a majority against the government on three votes. And with the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd now a former employee, it’s been a terrible time for Boris’ Brigade.
It’s surprising that this split has taken this long to formulate. Brexit is a right-wing problem, engulfing the Conservatives as we expected it to do. When Theresa May left office, the floodgates opened for the factional conflicts to take over – removing all sense of duty to governance and replacing with power-hungry politicking. The ideological differences are more nuanced. Nicholas Soames ably described this when he was interviewed by the Times. An MP with 37 years’ experience with the Tory whip, forced out because of this extremist position on no-deal.
It wasn’t only just Tories who showed their disgust with Boris’ purge.
Jess Phillips received wide acclaim for her speech on Wednesday, across the house and from journalists and regular people alike. It’s true that Boris Johnson and his small cabal of extremists are pursing an outcome for both tactical advantage and ideological purity. Brexit was the fire to destroy these broad churches. The evidence against the Prime Minister for his false claims about getting a deal or working hard with the EU, are demonstrably horseshit. Irish sources, members of the EU negotiation team, MPs, and leaks a-plenty have unveiled his pomposity for what it is – a ruse to distract from a crusade against civic values.
Dominic Raab, a purist of piffle, said in this interview on Sky News that the government will be looking into how they could test the Resistance Bill to its limits. Eyebrows and legal dictionaries have been raised by this assumption that the government will be refusing to obey the law. The newly appointed Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, tweeted his sincerity in this regard.
To think Boris Johnson, a person whose reputation has been built on plummy English obscurity, would just turn around to face Parliament and pull his trousers down. It’s like he’d go for a meeting with the Queen and throw a corgi at the wall. One begins to assume he binge-watched all of House of Cards, and developed a psychological connection to its Machiavellian dickheadery. With Dominic Cummings’ fingers grasped around his big gold mace – you can only imagine what danger these two will cause.
It was a remarkable week. Let us hope the next five days of bedlam shovel even more dirt above the Conservative Party’s head, as it gradually digs its own burial ground. For critics, this is sweet justice. For the artistry of good governance, it’s a nuclear explosion.🔷
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