The article by Stewart Jackson in the paywalled DT deserves a closer look. Stewart Jackson was a Conservative MP from 2005-17 and was Chief of Staff to Rt Hon David Davis MP when Brexit Secretary 2017-18, so he knows his Remain colleagues and he knows their anti-Brexit ways.
The article has the title “With Brexit on a knife edge, Boris must banish Remainer saboteurs from government” – something any Leaver will certainly agree with. Jackson’s summary is brief and to the point “It is imperative to cut anti-Brexit rebels off from power” (paywalled link). The extensive quotes below serve to build the case for his conclusion. The first paragraph shows which way the argument will go:
“Who’d of [sic!] thought that Boris Johnson – ridiculed, undermined, written off and dismissed as a has-been by the media and Tory colleagues as recently as February – would now be on the verge of a landslide win in the Conservative leadership ballot?
The Government’s defeat [yesterday] on the potential option of suspending Parliament in the event of a failure to agree a new deal with the European Union, is a sideshow and hardly fatal to his cause. It’s the beginning of the end for Tory Remainer MPs who have run out of road in their increasingly desperate efforts to thwart the democratic mandate and the instruction of the electorate to leave the EU, back in 2016.” (paywalled link)
If it’s indeed the ‘beginning of the end’ for Tory Remainers as Mr Jackson said, then I’d caution that, like dying dinosaurs, these Arch Remainers may well be able to wreck their Party and indeed Parliament with their death throes. Jackson continues with a delicious tirade:
“Talk of “making a stand” to ensure Parliament is not “locked out” of the Article 50 process is dishonest humbug too. Parliament has voted three times in primary legislation – Acts of Parliament debated over hundreds of hours – to hold and abide by an in/out referendum, to trigger Article 50 and to leave the EU on a set date – and yet it wilfully refuses to honour the law of the land and in the process, tarnishes what little vestigial authority it retains.” (paywalled link)
I confess I also like the following, acerbic paragraphs in which Mr Jackson judges what happened in the HoC yesterday
“It’s also otiose: The Commons defeat, entirely predictable as Mrs May has allowed the collapse of Ministerial collective responsibility and the erosion of party discipline, merely allows MPs to play for time. Without new primary legislation, Parliament cannot stop us leaving the European Union on October 31 and even a vote to revoke Article 50 would be indicative only without a new Act of Parliament.
The Speaker’s pernicious and corrosive undermining of established Commons conventions and interpretation of Commons standing orders is not in any sense a one-way street; it means that imaginative and unprecedented Parliamentary thinking and tactics can be utilised by a new Prime Minister and Cabinet. In extremis, prorogation is still a live option, as is a decision to pull the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, which the new Prime Minister could announce next week.” (paywalled link)
Look at that last sentence! I do hope BoJo and his advisers have taken note. It’s a bit like a bucket of cold water thrown over the heated heads of the Grieves and Hammonds. Moving on:
“Sir John Major’s foolish threats of judicial review have been firmly contradicted as a straw man argument by finer minds who actually understand constitutional law, including a former Supreme Court judge.
In the same way that Mrs May (mis)used the Royal Prerogative at her disposal to extend the Article 50 process to 0ctober 31, when Parliament only legislated for a delay until April 12, MPs underestimate the power of a new Prime Minister and a united Cabinet to drive events and utilise both a strong public mandate and a decisive party membership vote.
They have also hugely misjudged Boris Johnson’s toughness, resilience and campaigning elan. His message discipline – focusing on delivering Brexit by 31st October, uniting the Conservative Party and defeating Jeremy Corbyn, has been exemplary.
Above all, the Tory membership want no more of May’s weak supplication, but instead a confident and authentic Conservative Cabinet and not one set on the orderly management of decline and defeatism.” (paywalled link)
Leaving aside the praise for BoJo, we can all agree that it’s not just the Tory membership who’ve had enough of Ms May. The next part is encouraging:
“The appointment of Daniel Moylan as Brexit advisor, a strong-pro Boris supporter from the latter’s London City Hall days, and a consistent and principled Brexiteer, should be a strong signal to the party in Parliament that the new management will not countenance attempts to thwart Brexit from inside government.
That is why the new PM’s Cabinet appointments are imperative and will be interpreted so forensically: those existing Cabinet Ministers who plotted to take no deal “off the table” in March and in so doing, helped lead us to our current impasse, should really be aware that their actions must have consequences and they may not be favoured.” (paywalled link)
And now it gets personal:
“One of them, Amber Rudd, is a talented and articulate representative of a key Conservative tradition – Europhile and socially liberal – but second guessing the putative new Prime Minister’s position on no deal, admonishing him on the need to face reality in coming negotiations and chastising him on his reaction to Sir Kim Darroch’s resignation – all in this week alone, was injudicious and hardly counts as a viable job application. It’s symptomatic too of the ill-discipline and freelancing which has bedevilled the current fractious Cabinet. This must and will end.” (paywalled link)
It must indeed – for the sake of the country. Stewart Jackson concludes:
“The last two years have shown that a Cabinet riven by endemic disputes and bad blood is impotent, ineffectual in the face of avoidable errors by the Prime Minister and merely encourages wider low level party civil war.
Boris Johnson will need a team of loyalists and not a team of rivals on 24/7 political suicide watch. They will have be willing to walk together through political fire and fury this autumn. That means the top jobs will need to be held be principled Leavers and true believers. They will need courage and integrity and an eye on the big prize: A post-Brexit Conservative Commons majority and a party united again as an election winning machine.
Party unity is possible, vital and will come in time. But it must unquestionably be on the new Prime Minister’s terms if it is to be durable.” (paywalled link)
Well – the proof of the pudding is, as the saying has it, in the eating of the same. We’ll have to see if Johnson is really capable of grasping this nettle, and if he’s going to surround himself with Brexiteers who will stiffen his spine. Since so many of the Remainers in the May Cabinet are now preparing to resign, he may find himself enabled to select Brexiteers without having to make too many concessions.
The next week will be … interesting.