Every day looks more and more like an Establishment conspiracy to destroy Brexit. Now Kenneth Clarke has confirmed it: he has announced that he is going to vote in support of Theresa May’s Brexit In Name Only deal.
Tiresomely faux-genial jazz bore Kenneth Clarke — one of the last relics of the Thatcher era who still hangs about like a stale fart in a lift — is about as fanatically Europhile as it’s possible to be without actually getting your skin dyed blue and tattooed with gold stars and the legend “I heart Michel Barnier” across your chest.
Clarke is so pro-EU that in 2001 he described his party’s campaign to save the pound as a “disaster.” (Imagine the trouble we would be in now if Clarke had had his way and Britain had adopted the Euro!)
He is so pro-EU that during his last election campaign, he wrote to his constituents assuring them that the Referendum result was “not binding”.
In an email leaked to the Guardian, the Conservative grandee bemoaned the fact that most politicians “paid lip service to the supposedly democratic nature of the exercise”.
He said pro-European politicians should use opportunities in parliament to have a say over Brexit. “I think that MPs should vote according to their judgment of the national interest and the interest of their constituents,” he wrote.
The referendum was not an “instruction to any MP on how to vote” on the practical consequences around the economy, trade, migration or other arrangements that could emerge in Brexit negotiations, he said.
Clarke is the very model of a “good” European: contemptuous of democracy, certain that he knows better than the electorate he supposedly serves, determined to push his country forward to ever closer union with the EU superstate come what may.
If a Europhile ideologue like Clarke is prepared to vote for Theresa May’s deal then you know without a shadow of a doubt that Theresa May’s deal is an abject surrender to the EU.
Up till now, those of us of an optimistic bent have been able to console ourselves that, well hell, at least whatever Remainer crap May cooks up with her Remainer civil servants will get voted down in parliament.
But even this is no longer a certainty.
The problem, as we’ve seen with the failure of the European Research Group members like Jacob Rees-Mogg to muster the necessary number of signatures to get Theresa May defenestrated, is that May’s opposition is confused, divided, weak.
There’s another Brexiteer faction including the likes of Michael Gove and Priti Patel which has made up its tiny mind that the best way of getting Brexit to happen is to support May’s grisly sell-out and applaud her at every turn. It’s a horrible thought but instead of being treated by fate as they deserve — say, having a crown of molten gold poured onto their heads like Viserys Targaryen — it’s possible it might actually reward them for their fence-sitting, invertebrate betrayal of the Brexit cause.
Obviously, I haven’t spoken to Gove about this: too painful.
But if we can ever bring ourselves to talk about this, I’d say that approaching the enemy with a white flag and the promise of unconditional surrender is not a very powerful starting point for a negotiation.
This, effectively, is what the Brexiteer surrender monkey team are presumably gambling on. Some tattered fig leaf of a compromise will be included if not to get the Democratic Unionist Party on board than at least to sway enough Brexiteer waverers or overthinkers to get May’s shoddy sell-out voted through.
“Look!” all these loser-traitors will be able to boast, as they tramp off into exile once victory has been declared by the Maybot Terminator. “We struck an amazingly good compromise where in return for our property, land, weapons, armour, horses, and daughters the noble victors didn’t strangle any of us in the city dungeons, promised only to rape a few of our womenfolk and kindly agreed not to pour salt over our farmland because, well actually, they might want to use it themselves.”
I do hope I’m wrong. But I’m inclined to agree with this terrifying analysis by my fellow hardcore Brexiteer Laura Perrins at Conservative Woman.
We may hate and loathe and despise Theresa May all we wish, but there’s no denying that she has run rings round Brexiteers.
It may well be that we don’t get the result we want. Far from it…
So now everything will come down to the ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament expected next month. However with the DUP, Labour, the hard Brexiteers and some pro-European Conservatives united in opposition to the draft withdrawal agreement, it is hard to see how it will get through the Commons. Then we will leave on WTO terms, I hear you say.
Not so fast. Many are saying that a no-deal Brexit would still have to be approved by Parliament. The government is required to table a motion setting out its plans in the event that it loses the meaningful vote and John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, has made clear to MPs that he would ensure they had the chance to express a view either as an amendment or through an opposition day or back-bench debate.
As the days go past a second referendum looks more and more likely – perhaps one with two options: leaving on WTO rules or Remaining in the EU.
The thing about ousting a Prime Minister or indeed making such a fundamental change to your governance such as leaving the European Union is that you have to want it. You have to really, really want it. Many Conservative MPs don’t want it – we have known this for a while. Recent rumours are that Conservative constituency associations do not want it enough either and fear any leadership change. So they will settle for this awful deal instead.
And when we get four or five years of Jeremy Corbyn as a result it will be the Conservative party which is to blame: the grassroots for showing insufficient backbone; the fairweather Brexiteers (Gove et al) for allowing themselves to be bought off too soon; the hardcore Brexiteers (Mogg et al) for failing to strike hard enough early enough; but above, all the Remainers, led by May, for so obstinately determining to keep Britain part of a corrupt, sclerotic, socialistic, anti-democratic, failing superstate in breach of just about every Conservative principle imaginable.
As Jacob Rees-Mogg said on my podcast the other day it will be the biggest rift in the Conservative Party since the Repeal of the Corn Laws.
I hope Ken Clarke is happy with his final contribution of significance to the party he has been corpulently occupying these last few decades: rendering it unelectable for at least a generation.