I often wake up in the middle of the night and become prisoner to a stupid idea that just won’t go away, however much I try to dispose of it. Last night I had the crazy vision of a lame duck, with one leg shorter than the other, finding it easy to make u-turns!
There seems to be growing consensus in all UK political parties that Theresa May is not up to the job of Prime Minister. At the same time there is little appetite, at least in her own party, for her to go, largely because there is no obvious successor in view. All “possibles” carry high risks. Tories fear that there is a high probability that her departure would trigger another general election and lead to a Labour-led government.
Now, with the leaking of a “secret” letter to her from Johnson and Gove, we can see that she is being blatantly bullied by two of the Ministers that she appointed. They tell her to stick to their hard Brexit line – or else!
If May was to leave office now, she would go down in history as the Prime Minister who, contrary to her own better judgment, deliberately assumed responsibility for leading Britain into a belittling future in order to satisfy her long-held aspirations for high office.
She now has access to a vast amount of information and analysis which shows her that the Brexit process has already caused massive economic damage to the country and peoples’ livelihoods and promises much worse in future. However, by rushing into evoking Article 50 before having an exit strategy in place, she has locked herself into a negotiating process which prevents her from responding rationally to all the emerging signals of impending disaster. She is being forced at gunpoint by the same people who lied to referendum voters about the land of milk and honey that would result from leaving Europe to drive Britain down a road that will leave it poorer, more divided and more isolated.
Now is the moment, when she is most enfeebled – the lamest of ducks – to show her real strength by chucking the bullies out of her cabinet and offering the country a future that puts national interests rather than the personal ambitions of her bullying cabinet ministers first. She must have the courage to articulate her own interpretation of what is really best for Britain, now that she knows full well the extent of harm being inflicted by a hard Brexit.
She knows that, if Britain leaves the single market and customs union, it will be unable to negotiate as good a future trading deal on our doorstep, and that the Irish border will again become a problem; she knows that Fox is pipe-dreaming about advantageous trade deals with the rest of the world; and she knows that Britain’s fiscal revenue – so necessary for funding better health and education services – will shrink as London loses its role as Europe’s pre-eminent financial services centre. And she must be questioning whether it makes sense to pay £50 or 60 billion simply to be able to claim that we have “taken back control” when – if only for geographic reasons – our future must be deeply bound to the European mainland. Hopefully, she will also have come to see how important Britain’s membership of European institutions is to the nurturing of continued peace in a region that fell into devastating wars twice in our parents’ lifetimes.
By making such a U-turn now, and offering true leadership towards a constructive relationship with Europe, not excluding a “remain” option, May could still redeem her future reputation and be ranked high amongst our prime ministers.