Belfast Telegraph

Chris Moncrieff: Tory resignations hammer blow to facade of Cabinet unity

 

By Chris Moncrieff

No one can any longer be fooled by the claim that the Cabinet is totally and irrevocably united about the new Brexit blueprint, announced by the Prime Minister at the brainstorming Chequers meeting on Friday.

The sudden resignation of David Davis, who had been leading the Brussels negotiations, only 48 hours after the Chequers meeting, swiftly followed out the Cabinet door by the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, explodes at a stroke the government's pretence that all is sweetness and light.

This trains the spotlight relentlessly on the Prime Minister. Can she survive this massive blow to her authority - let alone control this unruly and fractious Cabinet?

Michael Gove's boast that there is total unity is now laughable. The first indication that all was not well was the carefully leaked, crude, gutter language used by Johnson about the new "way forward".

The resignations will give more power to Brussels and less to Westminster as this shaky government battles on, weakened beyond measure. Labour now believe, as do others, that the government is falling apart.

Cabinet ministers had seemed to agree to say they are united on the Prime Minister's proposals, but this has now been shown to be a facade and a sham.

This is the leakiest, most quarrelsome and fractious Cabinet I can remember. The Prime Minister's done her level best to bring the warring parties together, but their differences are now so deeply entrenched that harmony is surely nowhere in sight.

The Prime Minister now faces the most perilous moment of her political career.

Has the House of Commons lost its bottle? There appear to be plenty of good reasons why the Speaker, John Bercow, should be invited to leave the chair and thus make way for somebody new.

Yet, despite the groundswell of dissatisaction against Bercow - amounting, in some cases, to animosity - no serious attempt has been made to shift him.

To be fair, however, there are a considerable number of MPs who applaud him and think he is a breath of fresh air in the place.

Let us look at some of the facts and allegations. He promised to serve for nine years - that period has now passed and nothing has happened (a broken pledge?).

He breached his traditional duty of total impartiality, for instance by announcing - without actually consulting the House of Lords - that President Trump would not be allowed to address both Houses in the Palace of Westminster - a very real snub and totally out of order for a Speaker.

He has been accused of bullying his staff, although, for some bizarre reason, these allegations are not to be investigated.

He has worn lapel badges expressing support for campaigns he approves of. The Commons Speaker has to learn to be totally neutral and this is not happening.

He refuses to wear the traditional robes the Speaker has worn down the centuries and he interrupts far too much, often spoiling the flow of debate.

On the credit side, he has allowed far more urgent questions than his predecessors - a fact which appeals to many backbenchers.

Yet, overall, the view is that he should go, enough is enough. But there are no signs that this will ever happen.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, is not only a disgrace to the capital, but a damaging embarrassment to the UK as a whole.

His crass decision to allow the anti-Trump lobby to fly a grotesque balloon over London, depicting Trump as a baby in a nappy, was stupid and infantile.

You may not approve of President Trump, but he is, nevertheless, the elected leader of the United States, which is the UK's greatest ally and with whom we share a special relationship.

What a contrast to the warmth with which Trump was greeted by France recently. The flying of this ludicrous object, just as Trump arrives on our shores, could do immense damage. Why should the United States tolerate such a pathetic demonstration - authorised by the Mayor of London, no less - without some kind of unwelcome response?

No wonder Trump is barely visiting London during this short trip. You cannot blame him for wanting to avoid the howling mob.

And as for Sadiq Khan, if there is a way of dumping him from office, it should be explored. But, to employ that terrible cliche: don't hold your breath.

Why was the telephone number of a local minicab firm made available to Cabinet ministers attending the crucial Chequers Brexit talks on Friday?

The answer is simple: should any of the disgruntled ministers, dissatisfied with the Prime Minister's new Brexit blueprint, have stormed out of the meeting in disgust, they would have received a shock as they exited the front door.

Because the moment they chose to detach themselves from the Cabinet, their ministerial car would have been unavailable to them.

That would have entailed a tedious walk the length of the seemingly endless drive from the mansion to the exit gates, followed by a 10-mile tramp to the nearest railway station.

That explains why minicab details were made available. Alas, there was no business for the cab firm.

You could say the Prime Minister had a captive audience.

Belfast Telegraph

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