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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Damian Green MP"

Why the Cabinet Office will be in the dock for Covid failures when the inquiry comes. As will Sedwill.

Earlier this month, four new non-executive directors were appointed to the board of the Cabinet Office, at the head of which sits Michael Gove.  He will have no difficulty recognising them when it next meets – three of the quartet, anyway.

The first is Henry de Zoute, formerly a special adviser to Gove at Education, working alongside Dominic Cummings.  The second is Gisela Stuart, another old Gove hand: the one-time Labour Minister served alongside him as Vote Leave’s co-convenor.  The third is Simone Finn, who served with Henry Newman as one of Francis Maude’s SpAds when the latter was Cabinet Office Minister.  He is now working in the same capacity for Gove.

Evidence, some claim, that Gove is building up his own power base to rival Boris Johnson’s.  Given the two men’s tangled history, and former’s shimmering footwork as a Whitehall player, it’s indeed tempting to see him as a black-uniformed Richard III to Boris Johnson’s merry, fading Edward IV – awaiting his moment.  Certainly, Gove, like other politicians, will lose no opportunity to consolidate his position.

However, the implications of the appointments are at both more prosaic and more compelling.  The fourth appointment offers a way into understanding them.  The final name on that new non-exec list is Bernard Hogan-Howe – an old Theresa May rather than a Gove hand.  What’s he doing there?  The answer takes us on a journey from Britain’s national security to the coming Coronavirus inquiry, and a power struggle at the heart of government.

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Cabinet Office.  “In one respect at least, it’s like the British constitution,” one old hand told ConservativeHome.  “No-one would have designed it.  It is very largely an accident.”  Quite so.  Have a look at what makes it up.  Government property, the digital service, Veterans’ affairs, the GeoSpatial Commission: all of these pile up higgledy-piggledy in a department “supported by 22 agencies and public bodies”.

Now turn to its Ministers.  Gove heads it up – or rather, he doesn’t.  Boris Johnson is first in line and Minister for the civil service.  Jacob Rees-Mogg is in there, because the First Parliamentary Counsel, in charge of Government legislation, is there too.  So is Chloe Smith, Minister for the constitution.  So is Amanda Milling, the Party Chairman. So is Johnny Mercer, in government to deliver for veterans.

The Prime Minister is in charge, then?  Well, only in the sense that he’s First Lord of the Treasury.  In other words, he doesn’t really run the blessed thing.  Gove, then?  Not necessarily.  Have a look at the management team.  On it sit the Cabinet Secretary, the Civil Service’s Chief Operating Officer, and the Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee.  Gove has no real executive authority over the last, and much else.

Some of our readers will already have given up trying to wade though this alphabet soup.  And no wonder.  A worrying thought pops up: perhaps no-one is really in charge.  “Michael is no slouch at his paperwork,” one source said.  “But he recently stumbled across an entire secretariat that, for some reason, no-one had bothered to tell him about.”

Another insider speaks of battling for weeks to get hold of an organogram of the Office.  After studying it closely, he was none the wiser (nor necessarily, as the old legal saw has it, better informed).  Now comes even more troubling thought: perhaps this is the way that the civil service wants it.  An ex-Minister has a less conspiratorial explanation.  “This is a house that Jeremy Heywood built,” he said.  “And no-one else can seem to make it work.”

Actually, the core function of the Cabinet Office is clear enough, once one has battled through the labels and titles.  It’s there to join up the work of the Government and make sure that its agenda is implemented – particularly when it comes to anything that cross-cuts, such as digital services.  Much depends on the people involved. When Damian Green was First Secretary of State, for example he grabbed social care and took it into the Cabinet Office.

But if the Office really is like the British constitution, a question follows: is it still up to the job?  As ever, there are two potential answers – one revolutionary, one evolutionary.  The revolutionary option would hive off some functions and send them spinning away elsewhere.  For example, the Constitution should arguably have its own department, given the challenges of forming a new post-Brexit order, and a possible second Scottish referendum.

The evolutionary option would fire up the engines of intervention, concentrating the Office on ensuring that the departments deliver the Government’s agenda.  One old hand said that the civil service is now so geared to  announcements and social media, plus arbitrary and changing demands from the centre, that it has lost the capacity to research, think about and master policy.

Nick Timothy used to make the same point about the Home Office when he served there.  (As coincidence would have it, he has just been appointed as a non-executive director at Education; and ConHome is told that Rachel Woolf, another old Education hand, is set to become one at Work and Pensions.)  He, the new Cabinet Office non-execs, and others will strive to crank the departments up to deliver the Government’s priorities.

So far, so dry.  But real politics is buried in this arcane story.  This site has no animus against Mark Sedwill – who has neither the time nor, doubtless, the inclination to respond to the anonymous briefings aimed at him.  But what you will read here you will also see elsewhere: a drip-feed of claims that the Cabinet Secretary has too many jobs, lacks Heywood’s administrative dexterity, and hasn’t gripped the Coronavirus crisis.

Evidently, the inquiry, when it comes, will see politicians, scientists and civil servants passing the parcel of blame – each hoping that the music doesn’t stop when they are holding it.  “Two big parts of the state have failed to deliver on Covid,” one source said.  “The first is Public Health England.  The second is the Cabinet Office.”  Andrew Murrison’s article on this site earlier this week was an early roll of the tumbrils for the first.

Some in government would like the guillotine to lop the head off the second. This seems already to be happening: Number Ten is preparing to absorb the implementation function in the Cabinet Office.  The Vote Leave faction preference would be to carry on where this leaves off, mirroring the post-Sajid Javid absorption of the top of the Treasury into Number Ten.  Others think that moving functions to Number Ten is merely a Titanic deckchair shuffle.

“There are three main centres of power in Government,” another source told ConHome.  “The Prime Minister, the Treasury and, sitting between them, the Cabinet Office.  Why disturb the balance?”  The last word is that ex-Minister’s.  “The key to Cabinet Office reform is letting the Minister in charge get on with it.  Either Johnson trusts Gove, in which case he should back him to the hilt.  Or he doesn’t – and should get in someone else.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Profile: Helen MacNamara, who could yet hold Cummings’ fate in her hands

Helen MacNamara and Dominic Cummings are supposed, by observers of the Downing Street machine, to be on opposite sides.

And it is true that MacNamara is the Cabinet Office official in charge of “propriety and ethics”, to whom Sir Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, will delegate the task of conducting any inquiry the Prime Minister may yet be forced to order into whether or not Cummings broke the rules – though yesterday evening he told the Liaison Committee this would not be “a very good use of official time”.

Such Cabinet Office reports may calm the immediate storm, but do not always produce the result the Prime Minister wants. In December 2017, MacNamara’s predecessor, Sue Gray, published a report which did not entirely clear Damian Green, First Secretary of State and close supporter of Theresa May, of the charges made against him, so out he went.

It was said of Gray, profiled by ConHome in November 2017,

“She heads Whitehall’s equivalent of the Office of the Holy Inquisition. If Jeremy Heywood [the then Cabinet Secretary] is the Pope she leads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. She defines what is heretical…she is a steely enforcer of Whitehall authority.”

But although MacNamara can be trusted, within a wide discretion, to uphold the rules as they apply to Cummings, she is a different kind of person. In 2014, when she discussed “how women leaders succeed” at the Institute for Government, she spoke with enthusiasm about “the disruptive power of change” and how “crisis creates the opportunity to be disruptive”.

She recalled that after George Osborne became Chancellor of the Exchequer and she was charged with cutting the budget of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport by 50 per cent, she was able “to massively change the dynamic in terms of women in the organisation”.

And in a relaxed way, she said “I like to fail”, and went on remark that excessive caution is a problem with the culture within the Civil Service:

“We don’t take risks, we don’t make mistakes, we don’t admit failure.”

There could, one guesses, be more in common between MacNamara and Cummings than is allowed for by the presumed opposition between her as a defender of the official machine and him as a reformer of it.

Like Cummings, MacNamara is no respecter of hierarchy. In the late 1990s, after reading history at Clare College, Cambridge, she set out to become a dot.com entrepreneur.

She revelled in the absence of hierarchy, and points to the large number of dynamic women who got involved, including her hero, Martha Lane-Fox.

And MacNamara reckons she was taking part in something highly significant. She believes the digital revolution is as significant as the industrial revolution, and is even now only just beginning.

But she insists she was “very bad” at being an entrepreneur,

“because I think you learn many things about yourself from failing and one of the failures I had is that I wasn’t really interested in money, and that actually is a very significant failing if you’re trying to run a business. I was interested in doing interesting things and having a nice time and working with people, and none of these things necessarily in and of themselves make you some money.”

In the early years of this century, the Civil Service launched one of its periodic attempts to attract more people from the private sector, and recruited MacNamara, who in 2002 went to the DCMS.

Here she was soon Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State, Tessa Jowell. Women were “very powerful and able to do things” in the department: the Permanent Secretary was also a woman.

MacNamara was spotted as someone of unusual ability. She was involved in the Olympic bid. A Conservative minister with whom she had much to do during a later, extremely difficult project described her as “a perfect official, fair-minded, doesn’t play games, will always try to get at the truth, capable of bringing sense out of five-sided talks”.

He added that he had spent hundreds of hours with her, but had no idea of her personal politics. And he remarked that she had managed during this period to have four children, the youngest of them during her first stint at the Cabinet Office, from 2013-16.

Her husband, Alex Towers, also worked in the DCMS, became Director of the BBC Trust and is now Director of Policy and Public Affairs at BT.

In her first stint in the Cabinet Office, MacNamara was Director of the Economic and Domestic Secretariat, which runs the Cabinet and Cabinet committees. Here she did “lots of brokering to try to smooth the process for collective agreement”.

Her function is to help the Government do what it wants to do, and one suspects she would like to help Cummings do what he wants to do, namely recast the Civil Service into an altogether more professional organisation, where talent is rewarded.

The minister quoted above considers it “extremely plausible” that she might ascend to the post of Cabinet Secretary. So too does Tim Shipman, who last weekend reported in The Sunday Times that she could one day take over from Sedwill:

Helen MacNamara, the head of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office, who has clashed with Cummings over his treatment of special advisers, has also been handed a promotion that makes her Sedwill’s de facto deputy. McNamara’s elevation puts her in pole position to become the first female cabinet secretary. ‘She knows where all the bodies are buried because she has buried a lot of them for Boris,’ one official said.

A senior Tory summed up: ‘The big picture is that Dom wanted to see the back of Sedwill and failed. He was trying to take control. The bottom line is that Sedwill kept his job and another senior civil servant was brought in. Dom also hates Helen McNamara and he’s ended up with her getting promoted.’”

It is perfectly true that MacNamara and Cummings clashed over his treatment of special advisers, whose terms and conditions she set out to regularise.

And it is possible that Cummings has made so many enemies among officials that she is among them. After all, her role is “to ensure the highest standards of propriety, integrity and governance within government”, and it would not be beyond the bounds of official ingenuity to indicate that he has somehow infringed those.

But she has spoken with sympathy of women who because “they don’t come from a very big loud Irish family” are “not going to be able to get a word in edgeways in a meeting.”

MacNamara is not loud, yet somehow she always gets a word in edgeways. She of all people would not be intimidated by Cummings.

If she had the chance, she might decide he had behaved so badly it was her duty to push him over the edge. But she might also decide life would be frightfully dull without him, and that the cause of Civil Service reform would be set back a generation.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Benedict Rogers: Ten steps towards a more humane post-pandemic China policy

Benedict Rogers is co-founder and Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, founder and Chair of Hong Kong Watch and East Asia Team Leader at the international human rights organisation CSW. He is a former Parliamentary candidate and author of six books.

Until recently, I was rather a lone voice on China. If not crying in the wilderness, certainly one on the fringes, viewed with irritation by champions of the “Golden Era” of Sino-British relations.

When the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission published our 2016 report – The Darkest Moment – it was not popular in certain circles in Whitehall.

Yet suddenly, we are in a new world and almost daily I hear senior Conservatives saying what I have been saying for years.

They range across the spectrum – from Brexiteers such as Iain Duncan Smith and David Davis to centrist Remainers such as Tom Tugendhat to those on the party’s left like Damian Green. Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former chief of staff, and William Hague, the former Foreign Secretary who pledged to put “human rights at the heart of foreign policy”, have made welcome interventions. The new China Research Group is an excellent initiative.

Who would have thought it would take a pandemic to wake us up to the fact that, as Chris Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong, says in a letter to the Foreign Secretary, “totalitarian regimes always rely on secrecy and mendacity”. In Wuhan, he notes, “the Communist Party used the police to try to shut the doctors up” when they warned of coronavirus. The issue, says Lord Patten, “is not our relationship with China and the Chinese people”, with whom we should continue to engage as positively as possible. “It is our relationship with the dangerous and immoral Communist Party.”

So as calls for a reset and a “reckoning” increase, here are ten steps to consider.

1) Abandon the idea that in order to trade, we must be silent on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime’s atrocious human rights record.

Let’s end Operation Kow-Tow and begin Operation Stand-up-Tall. In all our interactions with the regime, public and private, we should speak out for human rights.  At a time when the Chinese people are enduring the worst crackdown since the Tiananmen massacre, and perhaps since the Cultural Revolution, this is no time to appease.

When at least a million Uyghurs and other Muslims are incarcerated in prison camps or enslaved in forced labour, we should hold the perpetrators of some of the 21st Century’s worst mass atrocities to account. When a tribunal chaired by the man who prosecuted Slobodan Milosevic concludes that the regime is forcibly extracting human organs from prisoners of conscience, we should seek justice. When thousands of Christians in China have seen crosses and churches destroyed and pastors jailed, we should defend religious freedom.

2) Wake up to the CCP’s aggression beyond its borders.

Five years ago Hong Kong-based bookseller Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, was abducted in Thailand, mysteriously appeared on Chinese state television delivering a confession, and recently was sentenced to ten years in jail. How can a state kidnap a foreign citizen from a third country and the rest of the world remain mute?

Less grave but closer to home, I have had a taste of the CCP’s aggression. In October 2017 I was denied entry to Hong Kong. Subsequently I have received anonymous threatening letters at my private home address. Some of my neighbours, my mother and my employer also received letters telling them to tell me to shut up.

At least four Conservative MPs have been lobbied by the Chinese embassy to tell me to stop speaking. Fake email messages in my name have been sent to MPs in an effort to discredit me. Others have experienced the same.

And I was the initial target of abuse at the Conservative Party Conference in 2018 by a Chinese state television reporter who was subsequently convicted of assault. The CCP’s influence in our universities, media and other spheres also needs to be examined.

3) Diversify our supply chains.

Few people would suggest stopping trade with China altogether, but we should not be so dependent. Let’s look to Asian economies that share our values – Japan, Korea, Taiwan – and countries which, though their human rights records are not perfect, nevertheless have more open, democratic systems than China’s such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil.

Let’s work with our oldest friends in Europe, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. And let’s produce more at home as well. Let’s not pull up the drawbridge, but let’s not put all our eggs in one basket. Let’s be a truly Global Britain.

4) Work with others to pursue an international investigation into Covid-19’s causes – and hold to account those who repressed the truth instead of the virus.

5) Seek real reform of multilateral organisations, to address China’s disproportionate influence in the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation, the United Nations Human Rights Council and other bodies.

Although I agree very much with Donald Trump’s criticisms of the WHO, I am not convinced that withdrawal is helpful – indeed, it may be counterproductive in ceding even more ground to the CCP. We should fight for reform.

6) Realise our obligations to Hong Kong and lead an international effort to defend its freedoms, the rule of law and autonomy.

We have a moral responsibility, but also a legal one under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. And it’s a matter of self-interest too – if the CCP is allowed to tear up its promises under a treaty lodged at the UN, that is an assault not only on Hong Kong but on the international rules-based system.

Moreover, Hong Kong still matters as a major international financial hub, as a Hong Kong Watch report shows – but its success as a trading centre is underpinned by the rule of law, basic freedoms and autonomy. If those are destroyed, its viability is undermined – and that is in no-one’s interests. Besides speaking out, we should expand the rights of Hong Kongers who hold British National Overseas (BNO) passports.

7) Strengthen relations with Taiwan, which has shown itself to be a role-model of democratic good governance.

Despite being ignored by the WHO, Taiwan has handled the pandemic remarkably effectively and responded to the global crisis with generosity. Its governance stands in stark contrast to the repression in mainland China. Taiwan is our friend and we should stand by it.

8) Clearly we should say no to Huawei.

The arguments are overwhelming and well-rehearsed – the deal damages relations with our closest allies, threatens national security and undermines our values. Huawei is an accomplice to the regime’s repression in China and an arm of its aggression abroad.

9) Impose targeted Magnitsky sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for human rights violations in mainland China and Hong Kong.

10) Lead the way in building global alliances to confront the CCP.

On our own what we can do is limited, but there is strength in numbers. Perhaps an international “contact group” could be established to coordinate our response. Perhaps a global alliance of Parliamentarians would be helpful. Together with friends in Europe, North America, Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific, let’s stand together against the CCP’s aggression.

I no longer feel I am a fringe irritant. I welcome the fact that this discussion is now mainstream. And what is overwhelmingly clear, as the Foreign Secretary has said, is that it can no longer be “business as usual” with the Chinese regime. And I know many Chinese people would welcome that.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Dean Godson: How the Conservatives divide on policy towards China

Dean Godson is the Director of Policy Exchange.

On occasion, there really is something new under the political sun: so who would ever have predicted that China policy would become a key Conservative fault line post Brexit?

Historically, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) never occupied a prominent place in the British Conservative cosmos, after the fashion of the American Right. There was no “who lost China?” debate in Westminster – such as convulsed Washington following the Maoist takeover in 1949.

All that is changing: nearly everyone now has an opinion on China because of Covid19. One measurement of the salience of an issue is the proliferation of party caucuses – such as the Huawei WhatsApp Group and the China Research Group. There is also talk of an alternative to the China APPG, seen by some as insufficiently challenging to the PRC.

Critics claim there is a flavour here of the People’s Liberation Front of Judea versus the Judean People’s Liberation Front. But as with Brexiteer factionalism, emerging fractions also reflect a certain dynamism. As Mao said: “let a hundred flowers bloom”.

Those Europe rebellions differed from the Huawei mutiny of 2020 in one key respect: they occurred when the Conservatives’ margins were slender. By contrast, this rebellion took place under the biggest Conservative majority since 1987. But for the prestige of Boris Johnson with the 2019 intake, it would have been much bigger; Anthony Mangnall (Totnes), was the sole dissenter amongst the newcomers. Soundings suggest he will not be alone next time.

The Conservative PRC-sceptic coalition is disparate, but broad. Not all of them were Huawei rebels, or are even MPs. The emerging balance of forces is, however, clear: out and proud PRC sceptics tend to be appreciably more vocal than advocates of the Government line. The sceptics can roughly be divided into eight strands of thought, some of which overlap:

  • Pro-Brexit Atlanticists such as Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson — who don’t want Huawei to jeopardise an FTA with America and who identify with the current bipartisan Washingtonian view of the PRC.
  • Senior former Ministers who are also Atlanticists – but who are not purists on PRC policy. They feel that if the PRC is admitted into international institutions, it must then abide by their rules. This viewpoint was most prominently articulated by William Hague at the recent Policy Exchange webinar on China; it is shared by Liam Fox and Damian Green. Hague and Green were Remainers, whilst Fox was a Leaver.
  • Younger liberal internationalists who voted Remain – most prominently, Tom Tugendhat, Chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee (this panel has proven notably cohesive across the party divides).
  • Civil libertarians worried by the Chinese surveillance practice, most obviously David Davis (who overlaps with the first camp).
  • Religious freedom andhuman rights advocates – such as Fiona Bruce (Congleton) and Benedict Rogers (co-founder of Hong Kong Watch).
  • Opponents of the dumping practices of the PRC – many of whom come from “Red Wall” seats with steel and ceramics industries.
  • Tory critics of globalisation – such as Nick Timothy.
  • Those who claim to be sympathetic to most or all of those strands – such as Bob Seely (Isle of Wight).

One noteworthy “neutral” is the influential Conservative Environment Network. Its members worry about animal welfare and a Chinese reversion to coal; but they also note the PRC’s part in reducing carbon emissions and in the manufacture of electric vehicles. Zac Goldsmith, the International Environment Minister is also seeking a global new deal on nature – and wants the PRC on board for that.

The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation likewise holds the PRC to account on such issues as wild life markets; one prominent activist Henry Smith, the MP for Crawlet, was a Huawei rebel. Its website lists Stanley Johnson and Carrie Symonds as leading lights.

Defenders of aspects of the existing policy towards the PRC are less vocal, but they are still there. Again, there is some overlap between the different strands:

The upshot of such frictions is that Westminster is a colder house than it once was for the PRC. Thus, Dominic Raab stated on 16 April that “we can’t have business as usual” — and that a “deep dive” review is coming; Priti Patel took a little-advertised decision to ban Hikvision from a security conference because of its role in surveillance of the Uighurs; and there was controversy over the PRC role in an attempted boardroom coup at Imagination Technologies. It won’t be the last.

But is the Government’s apparent change of approach one of substance or style – or, in the jargon of the Huawei decision, is it about the policy “core” or the tonal “periphery”? For example, it remains to be decided what the “deep dive” review will consist of; who will undertake it; and when it will emerge.

A new policy has not yet come into being because senior Ministers are often reminded by permanent servants of the State that the UK is heavily invested in the current broad terms of trade with the PRC – from which it cannot easily be extricated. Indeed, one senior former Minister notes with grudging respect Mark Sedwill’s part in persuading two very different Prime Ministers, May and Johnson, to stick with Huawei.

This approach is reinforced by the Treasury — which sees itself as the guarantor of economic growth and, increasingly, of big infrastructure projects to help the country out of recession. The PRC potentially has an important part to play there; Philip Hammond’s appreciation for Belt and Road is one legacy of his Chancellorship. And then there is the Government’s immediate dependency on the PRC for PPE.

So as with Brexit, much of the Conservative family finds itself pitted against the permanent State on how Britain aligns itself in the world; as with Brexit, the China rebels face a long (reverse) march through the institutions; and as with Brexit, Conservative Ministers find themselves caught between those contending forces.

One PRC-sceptic senior Minister has given colleagues copies of The Hundred-Year Marathon by Michael Pillsbury – a prominent US Sinologist admired by Donald Trump. The Minister’s point is that Conservative MPs need the same patience and craft as the PRC. The Parliamentary politics of China will be determined by whether Ministers have the credibility persuade backbenchers that they are genuinely playing that long game.

The new Labour Opposition will be worth watching. Labour sources state that precisely because Keir Starmer was author of Labour’s disastrous pledge for a second referendum, he now needs to show to the lost Red Wall heartlands that he is no Blairite globaliser – and will turn to the institutions of the nation state to defend distressed British companies going for a song to Chinese investors.

Both front benches share a common vocabulary – describing the absence of alternatives to Huawei as “market failure”. So how open will Labour be to cooperation with the Conservatives – either with the rebels, or even the Government? Or will the Conservatives succeed in determining policy on their own terms?

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Nicky Morgan: Now is the time for Conservatives to trust each other over Brexit

Nicky Morgan is Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and is MP for Loughborough.

A leap of faith by those rightly concerned about a No Deal Brexit is now required to enable the UK to leave the EU on October 31 with a deal in place and the withdrawal legislation approved. 

I know how hard this will be. In the hope that it might help those required to make that adjustment, I want to share my experiences of making a similar leap earlier this year.    

I was one of the rebels who helped to secure Parliament having a “meaningful vote”.  I was consequently labelled as one of the original ‘traitors’ by the media.  It wasn’t a very nice place to be, but I was convinced that I was doing the right thing, and that Parliament must be fully involved in something as significant as Brexit.

Everywhere I went in late 2017 and 2018, people would come up to me and say things like ‘I would never vote Conservative, but I think you are so right to be doing what you are doing.’  Eventually someone close to me asked if I didn’t think it was bit odd that I was doing more to satisfy non-Conservatives than those with whom I had worked with and agreed politically with for the last three decades?

Further rebellions continued – some successful, some averted and some defeated.  The Government was getting closer to a deal which I thought my side of the Party would broadly support.  Surely that was enough? But I realised then that it wouldn’t be for some MPs who now wanted a second referendum to try to secure a different result, and who were spending more time with MPs from other parties than our own.

That is a hard place to be.  I believe in cross-party working.  In our APPGs and Select Committees, it achieves positive results.  But underneath that MPs are really partisan creatures.  And as I worked with some Opposition MPs it became clear to me that, for some, it was about influencing the Government towards a softer Brexit but that, for others, it was about weakening the Conservative Party and prolonging the withdrawal process to buy time in the hope the voters would change their mind.

In my experience, if draft motions and amendments can’t be agreed unless they are unsupportive of the Government, then I had to question if I wanted to indulge that.

So by the end of 2018 and start of 2019, it was clear to me that the only people who benefited from a de-stabilised governing Party were our opponents.

Once the first meaningful vote had failed so heavily, it was time to try to find a way through the Brexit impasse.  And this could clearly only be done with Conservative MPs working and voting together.

Huge credit to Kit Malthouse who brought Jacob Rees-Mogg, Steve Baker, Iain Duncan Smith, Robert Buckland, Damian Green and me together.  It can be challenging to put heads together with those who may have a different vision for the eventual outcome – but ultimately we all wanted to deliver on the referendum result and get Brexit done. 

We did it because we knew we had to make some progress – and I believe that applies even more now.  It was at times testing, demanded constant supplies of Kit’s children’s chocolate and the ability to block out the background noise. But it did eventually result in a compromise leading to the Brady amendment which gave hope that the Commons could say what it wanted from Brexit, not just what it didn’t want.

That in turn led to talks with the then Brexit Secretary, which helped all of us to a greater understanding of the motivations of those with a different view.  I do now understand why some people believe in Brexit so sincerely, but I also heard their reservations too.  And they heard ours.   There is no substitute for talking privately.

The Prime Minister has now secured a great new deal with the EU. I believe all (bar a very small number of) MPs elected as Conservatives will support it.  The leap of faith now required is trusting that the deal will be kept on the table while the necessary legislation is passed before October 31. Colleagues in the ERG have said publicly that they will not torpedo the legislation and they should be taken at their word.  They have always stuck to their commitments in my dealings with them.

I know from my own experiences that putting doubts aside is not easy. But ultimately, we are all on the same side, and working for the same Brexit outcome now. We are all Conservatives, and we all share a broader vision for this great country: to make it the best place in the world to live, grow, start a family or business, and build one’s life.

We now have an opportunity to respect the referendum result and leave the EU with the Prime Minister’s new deal. So I hope we will seize it this week.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The day the Conservatives swung behind a Canada-type Brexit

Theresa May’s downfall as Party leader began with the Chequers proposals of the summer before last.  The twin pillars of it were, first, a commitment to treating the UK and EU “as if a combined customs territory” and, second, to a “common rulebook” for goods.

Although “Chequers” envisaged “managed divergence” from the EU, the common rulebook idea suggested high alignment. This last proposal eventually made it into the Political Declaration.  The EU criticised it at the time it was unveiled, and rebuffed the complicated customs proposal altogether.

David Davis resigned – this site eventually published the Alternative White Paper he had been working on – and Boris Johnson followed.  They were the first Brexiteer resignations from May’s Government.  She resigned the following spring.

Johnson has always favoured the “Canada Plus Plus Plus” or “Super Canada” idea set out both in Davis’ draft and elsewhere.  And the combined customs territory scheme was never going to fly.  So it is no surprise that the foundation of his new Brexit plan is getting the UK out of the Customs Union altogether.

A striking aspect of his statement yesterday is that the Conservative Parliamentary Party, plus some of the whipless 21, appears to have waved farewell to high alignment, the Chequers common rulebook proposal, and any variant on EEA membership (Norway-to-Canada; Norway Plus; Common Market 2.0).

Damian Green, David Gauke, Greg Clark, Stephen Hammond: none of these, whether in receipt of the Conservative whip or not, are exactly founder members of the European Research Group.

All spoke; all asked questions of the Prime Minister’s plan; all were about the Northern Ireland dimension.  If yesterday’s proceedings are anything to go by, Tory MPs are now, at the least, willing to tolerate a Canada-type settlement in order to get Brexit delivered and, at most, enthusiastic about the prospect.

If the EU rejects Johnson’s proposals altogether, as seems likely, and he then goes on to win a general election, which is possible, expect them to become the next Government’s EU policy norm.  And it may just be that the EU is willing to engage with them even now.

If instead the Conservatives go into opposition after an election, and Brexit is revoked, the Party will need a new EU policy.  In these circumstances, we think there would be a case for looking anew at EEA membership, but the Party membership is surely more likely to favour a Canada-type approach.

Either way, May’s plan has been dead for some time, and Johnson has now read the funeral rites over it.  That Chequers itself is unmourned shouldn’t pass unnoticed.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Which MP is backing which candidate. Our named estimates. Johnson 112, Hunt 44, Gove 34, Javid 21, Stewart 14

The arms race to name supporters has begun, and on balance we’ve decided to join it.

We have been compiling our own list for some time both of declared and undeclared supporters of possible contenders.

Some names will doubtless come off one column and be added to another…only perhaps later to revert to the original.

At any rate, here we go: as we wrote recently, what strikes us so far is how fluid the Parliamentary stage of the contest is presently set to be.

– – –

Boris Johnson – 112

  • Nigel Adams
  • Stuart Andrew
  • Steve Baker
  • Steve Barclay
  • Paul Beresford

 

  • Jake Berry
  • Peter Bone
  • Andrew Bowie NEW
  • Ben Bradley
  • Andrew Bridgen

 

  • James Brokenshire
  • Robert Buckland
  • Conor Burns
  • Alun Cairns
  • Bill Cash

 

  • Rehman Chisti NEW
  • Therese Coffey
  • Damian Collins
  • Colin Clark
  • Simon Clarke

 

  • James Cleverly
  • Geoffrey Cox
  • Tracey Crouch NEW
  • Leo Docherty
  • Nadine Dorries

 

  • Oliver Dowden
  • Richard Drax
  • James Duddridge
  • Iain Duncan Smith
  • Michael Ellis

 

  • Charlie Elphicke
  • Nigel Evans
  • David Evennett
  • Michael Fallon
  • Mark Francois

 

  • Lucy Frazer
  • Marcus Fysh
  • Zac Goldsmith
  • Chris Grayling
  • Andrew Griffiths

 

  • Matt Hancock
  • Simon Hart
  • James Heappey
  • Chris Heaton-Harris
  • Ranil Jayawardena

 

  • Bernard Jenkin
  • Andrea Jenkyns NEW
  • Robert Jenrick
  • Caroline Johnson
  • Jo Johnson

 

  • David Jones
  • Daniel Kawczynski
  • Greg Knight
  • Kwasi Kwarteng
  • Mark Lancaster

 

  • Andrea Leadsom
  • Andrew Lewer
  • Julian Lewis
  • Ian Liddell-Grainger NEW
  • Jack Lopresti

 

  • Craig Mackinlay
  • Stephen McPartland
  • Esther McVey
  • Ann Main
  • Kit Malthouse

 

  • Scott Mann
  • Paul Maynard NEW
  • Johnny Mercer
  • Amanda Milling
  • Andrew Mitchell

 

  • Damian Moore
  • Anne Marie Morris NEW
  • Sheryll Murray
  • Andrew Murrison
  • Matthew Offord

 

  • Priti Patel
  • Owen Paterson
  • Mike Penning
  • Andrew Percy
  • Mark Pritchard

 

  • Jacob Rees-Mogg
  • John Redwood
  • Lawrence Robertson
  • Douglas Ross
  • Andrew Rossindell

 

  • Lee Rowley
  • Bob Seely NEW
  • Grant Shapps
  • Alok Sharma
  • Chloe Smith

 

  • Henry Smith
  • Andrew Stephenson
  • Bob Stewart
  • Graham Stuart
  • Julian Sturdy

 

  • Rishi Sunak
  • Desmond Swayne
  • Ross Thomson
  • Justin Tomlinson
  • Craig Tracey

 

  • David Tredinnick
  • Anne-Marie Trevelyan
  • Liz Truss
  • Martin Vickers NEW
  • Theresa Villiers

 

  • Ben Wallace
  • David Warburton
  • Matt Warman
  • Heather Wheeler NEW
  • John Whittingdale

 

  • Gavin Williamson

Jeremy Hunt – 44

  • Harriet Baldwin
  • Peter Bottomley
  • Steve Brine
  • Alistair Burt
  • James Cartlidge

 

  • Jo Churchill
  • Greg Clark
  • Glyn Davies
  • Alan Duncan
  • Caroline Dinenage NEW

 

  • Jonathan Djonogly NEW
  • Philip Dunne
  • Mark Field
  • Vicky Ford
  • Liam Fox

 

  • Mike Freer
  • Mark Garnier
  • Nus Ghani
  • Robert Goodwill
  • Roger Gale

 

  • Richard Graham
  • Greg Hands
  • Oliver Heald
  • Nick Herbert
  • John Howell

 

  • Andrew Jones
  • John Lamont
  • Alan Mak
  • Patrick McLoughlin
  • Huw Merriman

 

  • Penny Mordaunt
  • David Morris
  • James Morris
  • Will Quince
  • Mark Pawsey

 

  • John Penrose
  • Mark Prisk
  • Amber Rudd
  • Royston Smith
  • Alec Shelbrooke

 

  • Keith Simpson
  • Iain Stewart
  • Helen Whateley

Michael Gove – 34

  • Peter Aldous
  • Richard Bacon
  • Kemi Badenoch
  • Karen Bradley
  • Jack Brereton

 

  • Alberto Costa
  • David Duguid
  • George Eustice
  • Michael Fabricant
  • Nick Gibb

 

  • Luke Graham
  • Bill Grant
  • Kirstene Hair
  • John Hayes
  • Trudy Harrison

 

  • Damian Hinds
  • Kevin Hollinrake
  • Stephen Kerr
  • Edward Leigh
  • Oliver Letwin

 

  • Rachel Maclean
  • Mark Menzies
  • Anne Milton
  • Nicky Morgan
  • David Mundell

 

  • Bob Neill
  • Guy Opperman
  • Neil Parish
  • Claire Perry
  • John Stevenson

 

  • Mel Stride
  • Tom Tugendhat
  • Ed Vaizey

Sajid Javid – 22

  • Lucy Allan
  • Edward Argar
  • Victoria Atkins
  • Fiona Bruce
  • Stephen Crabb

 

  • Mims Davies
  • Kevin Foster
  • John Glen
  • Robert Halfon
  • Luke Hall

 

  • Simon Hoare
  • Caroline Nokes
  • Chris Philp
  • Mary Robinson
  • Andrew Selous

 

  • Chris Skidmore
  • Gary Streeter
  • Derek Thomas
  • Robin Walker
  • Mike Wood

 

  • Jeremy Wright

Rory Stewart – 14

  • Richard Benyon
  • Ken Clarke
  • Tobias Ellwood
  • David Gauke
  • Dominic Grieve

 

  • Margot James
  • Gillian Keegan
  • David Lidington
  • Paul Masterton
  • Victoria Prentis

 

  • Antoinette Sandbach
  • Caroline Spelman
  • Nicholas Soames

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Alex Morton: We urgently need to fix the social care crisis

Alex Morton is Head of Policy at the Centre for Policy Studies.

It is hardly news that the most controversial part of the 2017 Conservative manifesto was its proposals on social care. Indeed, they virtually destroyed the entire Conservative election campaign.

But at the same time, we can’t simply put social care in a box labelled “too difficult” and leave it there to fester. The current system is not sustainable – and will become still less so as demographic pressures mount.

There are two major tests that any social care reform needs to pass. The first is that, while we have to ensure that all those who need it receive good care, we should not penalise those who work hard and save. Whatever system we adopt, we need to avoid the “dementia lottery” – and people being forced to sell the homes they have worked all their lives to own and pass on, in order to fund their care.

But there is another test, which is barely even talked about. The current system of funding massively disincentivises the construction of much-needed social care facilities and retirement housing – because the councils that pay for social care see the elderly as a burden on their resources. That, too, needs to change.

Today, the Centre for Policy Studies launches a report by Damian Green MP, Fixing the Care Crisis. We believe it is hugely important contribution to this debate, setting out a way forward that can command genuine consensus.

The essence of the proposal is that social care should copy the state pension, a model that is both sustainable and universally accepted. Everyone gets a decent level of support, but this is topped up with private funding, as people do with their pensions.

Obviously, to relieve the cost pressures on Government you might suggest that people should pay for their own care full stop – but given that 80 per cent of people think social care should be funded by the state, we believe this is a compromise on which everyone can agree.

Green’s model proposes creating a Universal Care Entitlement, a national level of good care that everyone who needs it would receive. This could then be topped up by a Care Supplement for those who want extra, more expensive top-ups. After all, as his report notes, some people prefer care homes with top of the range gyms and bistro bars – it is not the job of the state to pay for these for all!

We envisage the Care Supplement being supported by an insurance system, which could bring in very large sums each year – we estimate £4 billion to £13 billion – since most people will want both better facilities and the peace of mind of ensuring that their family can still inherit most of their assets, especially their homes.

This ends the unfairness of the current system, without creating an unaffordable system where the Government ends up paying for “care elements” which are essentially luxuries. The Universal Care Entitlement does require an injection of government money – we believe around £2.5 billion a year – but we also offer suggestions on how this could be funded.

Under this system, if you pay in more, you get out more – but everyone has a good level of care.

It’s not just about demand, but supply

But there’s another issue that the paper addresses – one which is very rarely talked about, but is utterly vital.

We all know that a big problem with the current model of social care is the massive knock-on effect that it has on the NHS. This new structure would help fix that. But we don’t talk nearly as much about the interaction between social care and the housing market.

Because councils currently worry about attracting older people to their area, they are not keen to build new care homes or provide new retirement housing. This then hits their local NHS – to the tune of at least £1 billion a year in delayed transfers out of hospitals alone.

In the 1980s, when social care was essentially provided nationally, care provision grew by 84 per cent. But once responsibility for funding was transferred to the local level, care home provision basically stagnated – even as the number of older people has steadily grown.

There has also been a fall in social care productivity of around 20 per cent since 2000 – which is equivalent to £3.4 billion a year in higher costs – of which the Government bears nearly £2 billion a year (equivalent to a 25 per cent share of their spending on social care for older people). There is serious evidence most care homes are too small for modern needs, and unable to modernise, but because of the issue around provision, we are trapped in a system where new facilities are not approved.

It’s not just about care homes, but retirement housing. In the UK, this makes up around 0.6 per cent of all homes. This is a fraction of what other similar countries like Australia and the USA achieve – around one-tenth in fact.

When I worked in Number Ten, some council leaders would quietly admit, embarrassed, that they avoided meeting their ageing population’s needs, because they worried that new facilities would draw in older people and this could blow a hole in their budgets.

But the cost of this is high – a year spent in a retirement home saves, on average, £3,500 per person, per year. And the lack of retirement housing means that people have to go from an unsuitable home into a very expensive care home setting rather than a more suitable retirement home with independence, which they prefer and costs less – so everyone loses!

If we built the retirement homes we need, it could save over £1 billion a year within a decade. It also helps fix the housing crisis, by ensuring that more people are moving out of larger homes they no longer need, which growing families can then move into.

By changing the structure of the system from locally funded to nationally, we can encourage councils to draw up proper social care plans, and build the retirement homes we need, without fearing this will destroy their finances. Today’s report proposes to do this by requiring councils to have a target for older person housing and a use class for retirement housing, as well as coordinating social care needs.

The time for this is now

All too often, the “solutions” offered in social care are just asking people to stump up more money without fixing the system or thinking about what is fair. What is needed is a holistic, fair, and politically workable solution.

We think this report’s solutions are something there could be a cross-party solution acceptance of, just as there is a cross-party acceptance for the current pension model.

Each year, the social care crisis becomes more acute and the costs mount to society and individuals. The imminent Green Paper has been kicked down the road over and over again – but in Fixing the Care Crisis there is a potential solution that can put the system right.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Cabinet must tell May to go

In Theresa May’s perfect world, the Withdrawal Agreement would have been carried through Parliament by Conservative votes.  It has failed to pass the Commons three times.  So she has turned to Jeremy Corbyn.

In her next best place to this ideal world, the Agreement would somehow be supported by the bulk of both the main parties.  Labour would settle for a customs union which isn’t called a customs union but really is a customs union – in addition to the customs union already written into the Withdrawal Agreement, at least as far as any future Unionist government is concened.

Meanwhile, Corbyn would stop pushing for what he can’t have – namely, guarantees that Labour-style future employment and environmental policies will be proofed against a fundamental of our unwritten constitution: that no Parliament can bind its successors.  Instead, the Prime Minister would offer vague assurances.  Meanwhile, Corbyn would block his party’s push for a second referendum.

May would thus be able to wangle a short extension from the EU at this week’s emergency summit – having persuaded Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron that she and Corbyn would shortly combine to drive the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons.  This would then happen.  A Bill based on the Agreement would pass swiftly.  Plans for British participation in the European Parliamentary elections would be scrapped.  Britain would leave the EU before May 23.

Her Party would then forgive her for preparing for those elections; for whatever losses emerge from the local elections on May 5, and for all the trials, U-turns, humiliations, defeats and tribulations of the Brexit negotiation process.  She would thus have room to execute a swift reshuffle in which her most likely successors would be moved sideways, marooned or sacked.  There would be talk of bringing on a new generation of leadership candidates – to reinvent the Party for the future, along the lines which Onward and others are floating.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister would move on from the Withdrawal Agreement to the Political Declaration.  She would kick off the Brexit talks, Part Two, by reviving parts of her Chequers plan.  She would enjoy a last hurrah at the Conservative Party Conference, before December arrived with its prospect of a confidence ballot.  But by then she would have so befuddled her critics and confounded expectations that the ballot might not take place at all.  She would be able to stay on for just a little longer…

But it takes only a moment’s though to perceive all this as the fantasy that it is.

May will surely not be granted a short extension.  If the EU does not somehow plump for No Deal – which is improbable – she will be given a long one, with terms approved by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.  British participation in the European Parliamentary elections will loom.  Corbyn is unlikely to come to her rescue.  If he does, the logic of her turning her back on her own Party, and approaching Labour instead, will work its way to completion.  Most Labour MPs would vote for the Withdrawal Agreement.  Many Conservative MPs would not.

Whether it passes or fails, the Parliamentary stage would be set for further seizures of power by the Letwin/Cooper axis, aided and abetted by John Bercow.  The natural drift of the Commons would then be towards a second referendum.  There is an outside chance that some form of Norway Plus scheme may revive.  We would be on course for a softer Brexit, or else for No Brexit at all – unless the voters seem ready to put two fingers up to Britain’s pro-EU ascendancy.  In which case, expect talk of revocation to grow louder.

This takes us to the crunch.  Ten Conservative MPs voted in favour of cancelling Brexit at the start of this monthEight backed a second referendumA hundred and eighty-seven opposed an extension in March: that number represented two-thirds of the Parliamentary Party, and included six Cabinet Ministers.  In these circumstances, confronted by revocation or a second referendum or even Norway Plus, the Tory Party could split altogether.  It is not impossible to imagine Corbyn winning a no confidence vote and the election that followed.

There is an alternative, but it is neither pleasant, easy, nor guaranteed to work.  In a nutshell, it is to use any long extension to remove Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party, and hold a leadership contest that would conclude after those wretched European elections.  (Since were that new leader in place for them, he or she would get off to the worst possible start.)

In the event of the Withdrawal Agreement having failed to pass, this new leader would want to begin all over again.  He would propose a policy based on that set out in the Brady amendment – the only Brexit policy option for which the Commons has recently voted – and built on in the Malthouse Agreement by Nicky Morgan, Steve Baker, Damian Green, Simon Hart and others.

Whether the Agreement had passed or not, he would back a lower alignment rather than a higher alignment policy for the second stage of the Brexit talks.  In the event of it not having done so, it would make sense for the backstop to be put in place for a limited period while “alternative arrangements” are thrashed out.  This is more or less what the recent legal elaborations agreed with the EU imply.

If the EU rejected this approach, there would be No Deal.  You will point out that there is no clear majority in the Commons for it.  This is correct.  Which is why this new leader would have to prepare for a general election later this year in any event.

Yes, such an approach risks some Tory MPs peeling off to the Independent Group – though, as we say, an approach based on the Brady amendment makes sense, since the whole Parliamentary Party, pretty much, was able to unite behind it.

But the alternative risks a bigger split, both in the Commons and among the grassroots, in any event.  Expect soon to hear a new form of that old talk about a Conservative-UKIP alliance – this time round, of a Tory-Brexit Party pact.

Furthermore, there is even more at stake than the future of the world’s most venerable political party: namely, whether the referendum verdict of 2016, carried by the largest vote in this county’s political history, is to be upheld or dishonoured.

You will have spotted the fly in this unpalatable ointment.  Namely, that the Prime Minister is unwilling to go.  The 1922 Committee Executive has presented her with the obligatory glass of whisky and pistol.  She has refused to pick them up.

Furthermore, there is no formal means of expressing no confidence in her leadership until December.  The habit of suggesting indicative votes in catching on.  But the 1992 executive is doubtful that these could produce a resolution.

That leaves the Cabinet.  Its members are divided on policy, dogged by personal ambition, and daunted by the scale of the challenge before them.

To ask this dispirited band to come together, tell the Prime Minister to step down as Party leader, and stay in Downing Street until the ensuing leadership election is concluded – particularly when the options are so grisly – is a very big ask indeed.

But the driver of the car is taking it towards the edge of the cliff.  True, it may crash if the Cabinet attempts to wrest control from her.  But if they don’t, it is set to career into the void, in any event.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Cabinet must tell May to go

In Theresa May’s perfect world, the Withdrawal Agreement would have been carried through Parliament by Conservative votes.  It has failed to pass the Commons three times.  So she has turned to Jeremy Corbyn.

In her next best place to this ideal world, the Agreement would somehow be supported by the bulk of both the main parties.  Labour would settle for a customs union which isn’t called a customs union but really is a customs union – in addition to the customs union already written into the Withdrawal Agreement, at least as far as any future Unionist government is concened.

Meanwhile, Corbyn would stop pushing for what he can’t have – namely, guarantees that Labour-style future employment and environmental policies will be proofed against a fundamental of our unwritten constitution: that no Parliament can bind its successors.  Instead, the Prime Minister would offer vague assurances.  Meanwhile, Corbyn would block his party’s push for a second referendum.

May would thus be able to wangle a short extension from the EU at this week’s emergency summit – having persuaded Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron that she and Corbyn would shortly combine to drive the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons.  This would then happen.  A Bill based on the Agreement would pass swiftly.  Plans for British participation in the European Parliamentary elections would be scrapped.  Britain would leave the EU before May 23.

Her Party would then forgive her for preparing for those elections; for whatever losses emerge from the local elections on May 5, and for all the trials, U-turns, humiliations, defeats and tribulations of the Brexit negotiation process.  She would thus have room to execute a swift reshuffle in which her most likely successors would be moved sideways, marooned or sacked.  There would be talk of bringing on a new generation of leadership candidates – to reinvent the Party for the future, along the lines which Onward and others are floating.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister would move on from the Withdrawal Agreement to the Political Declaration.  She would kick off the Brexit talks, Part Two, by reviving parts of her Chequers plan.  She would enjoy a last hurrah at the Conservative Party Conference, before December arrived with its prospect of a confidence ballot.  But by then she would have so befuddled her critics and confounded expectations that the ballot might not take place at all.  She would be able to stay on for just a little longer…

But it takes only a moment’s though to perceive all this as the fantasy that it is.

May will surely not be granted a short extension.  If the EU does not somehow plump for No Deal – which is improbable – she will be given a long one, with terms approved by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.  British participation in the European Parliamentary elections will loom.  Corbyn is unlikely to come to her rescue.  If he does, the logic of her turning her back on her own Party, and approaching Labour instead, will work its way to completion.  Most Labour MPs would vote for the Withdrawal Agreement.  Many Conservative MPs would not.

Whether it passes or fails, the Parliamentary stage would be set for further seizures of power by the Letwin/Cooper axis, aided and abetted by John Bercow.  The natural drift of the Commons would then be towards a second referendum.  There is an outside chance that some form of Norway Plus scheme may revive.  We would be on course for a softer Brexit, or else for No Brexit at all – unless the voters seem ready to put two fingers up to Britain’s pro-EU ascendancy.  In which case, expect talk of revocation to grow louder.

This takes us to the crunch.  Ten Conservative MPs voted in favour of cancelling Brexit at the start of this monthEight backed a second referendumA hundred and eighty-seven opposed an extension in March: that number represented two-thirds of the Parliamentary Party, and included six Cabinet Ministers.  In these circumstances, confronted by revocation or a second referendum or even Norway Plus, the Tory Party could split altogether.  It is not impossible to imagine Corbyn winning a no confidence vote and the election that followed.

There is an alternative, but it is neither pleasant, easy, nor guaranteed to work.  In a nutshell, it is to use any long extension to remove Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party, and hold a leadership contest that would conclude after those wretched European elections.  (Since were that new leader in place for them, he or she would get off to the worst possible start.)

In the event of the Withdrawal Agreement having failed to pass, this new leader would want to begin all over again.  He would propose a policy based on that set out in the Brady amendment – the only Brexit policy option for which the Commons has recently voted – and built on in the Malthouse Agreement by Nicky Morgan, Steve Baker, Damian Green, Simon Hart and others.

Whether the Agreement had passed or not, he would back a lower alignment rather than a higher alignment policy for the second stage of the Brexit talks.  In the event of it not having done so, it would make sense for the backstop to be put in place for a limited period while “alternative arrangements” are thrashed out.  This is more or less what the recent legal elaborations agreed with the EU imply.

If the EU rejected this approach, there would be No Deal.  You will point out that there is no clear majority in the Commons for it.  This is correct.  Which is why this new leader would have to prepare for a general election later this year in any event.

Yes, such an approach risks some Tory MPs peeling off to the Independent Group – though, as we say, an approach based on the Brady amendment makes sense, since the whole Parliamentary Party, pretty much, was able to unite behind it.

But the alternative risks a bigger split, both in the Commons and among the grassroots, in any event.  Expect soon to hear a new form of that old talk about a Conservative-UKIP alliance – this time round, of a Tory-Brexit Party pact.

Furthermore, there is even more at stake than the future of the world’s most venerable political party: namely, whether the referendum verdict of 2016, carried by the largest vote in this county’s political history, is to be upheld or dishonoured.

You will have spotted the fly in this unpalatable ointment.  Namely, that the Prime Minister is unwilling to go.  The 1922 Committee Executive has presented her with the obligatory glass of whisky and pistol.  She has refused to pick them up.

Furthermore, there is no formal means of expressing no confidence in her leadership until December.  The habit of suggesting indicative votes in catching on.  But the 1992 executive is doubtful that these could produce a resolution.

That leaves the Cabinet.  Its members are divided on policy, dogged by personal ambition, and daunted by the scale of the challenge before them.

To ask this dispirited band to come together, tell the Prime Minister to step down as Party leader, and stay in Downing Street until the ensuing leadership election is concluded – particularly when the options are so grisly – is a very big ask indeed.

But the driver of the car is taking it towards the edge of the cliff.  True, it may crash if the Cabinet attempts to wrest control from her.  But if they don’t, it is set to career into the void, in any event.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com