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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Mrs May: Glutton?

David Cameron apparently believed that he and his hoppo, George Osborne, could persuade the nation into giving a decisive 'get lost' message to Eurosceptics. Hence he promised the 2016 Referendum in his second election manifesto, together with the hint of a promise that some of the most egregious political aspects of the 'ever-closer union' could [at least temporarily] be toned down. When it became clear, with approach of the referendum date, that this could be a close-run event he made two catastrophic decisions. He had been met with contempt when he asked other EU leaders to concede any points of significance, so the package of 'reforms to the EU' that he claimed to have 'achieved' looked as trivial as it was: but he pronounced it a success, nevertheless; which conned nobody. The even greater mistake was to mount 'Operation Fear', presenting economic data [and even the notion of a new world war] as unambiguously guaranteeing the country all kinds of disasters if there was a vote to leave the EU: this convinced far more people that the government was trying to manipulate them, than the number who may have been frightened. Forgetting his undertaking to implement the decision of the people, whichever way it went, he stood down immediately the result was announced.

Thus Theresa May emerged as the Prime Minister. Known only as the Home Secretary who had implemented Osborne's cuts to the police and the prison system, and had failed to find policies to reduce the flow of immigrants into the UK, she had few personal adherents. Just about her first act in power was to consign George Osborne to a lucrative career on the back benches. She appointed a Cabinet of competent but mostly-unknown ministers, with three of the most conspicuous characters [Johnson, Fox and Davies] clustered together to combine with the Prime Minister in 'delivering Brexit'. Since then, she has made it unambiguously clear that she expects personally to make all the key decisions about the exit process, and to have the support of a supine parliament. That will not work out to her credit.

The Liberal Democrats' fantasy that people voted in the 1975 Referendum in favour of the European Economic Community, and that the 2016 vote could be said not to have reversed the 1975 vote because the question in 2016 was about leaving the European Union, and did not mention the EEC, is pure nonsense. The EEC metamorphosed into the EU, which fully incorporated the 'common market': with the full participation of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. The Liberals will go further into LaLaLand if they try to stick with that idea.

In making herself the arbiter of all decisions on the British side of the negotiation, apparently without an adequate team of experienced negotiators, the full responsibility for everything that will go wrong falls to her. The wrangle with the Scottish Nationalists that will form a drain on the Prime Minister's attention and her energy will help to ensure that false steps and taken and mistakes make. It is difficult to foresee a good outcome for Mrs May. Straws in the wind, such as the distraction of proposing the creation of Grammar Schools while the real-terms budget for schools is declining, indicate that the limits to her credibility will become apparent before the end of this year.

Mrs May is not as stupid or dogmatic politician as was Margaret Thatcher: she will be more hurt by the slings and arrows of political dissent than her superficially formidable predecessor could ever have been. She has chosen to pile these issues onto her own plate: she will regret it.

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