Magazine article The Spectator

The Hubris of Theresa May

Magazine article The Spectator

The Hubris of Theresa May

Article excerpt

The PM's cynical snob-mob alliance over Brexit will not hold

Understand what this government is trying to get away with, and think about how it is trying to get away with it, and you will see it is reconstituting the oldest and dirtiest alliance in Tory-history: the alliance between snobs and mobs.

I accept it takes a while to see our new rulers for what they are. Theresa May represents the dormitory town of Maidenhead. Although Eton College is just a few miles down the Thames valley, she could not be further socially and intellectually from David Cameron's public school chumocracy. As for inciting mobs, what more ridiculous charge could I level against her? May seems to have no need to incite anyone. The far left has destroyed the opposition so thoroughly it will take Labour a generation to recover. A Conservative party that officially wanted to keep us in the European Union, then lost the referendum and its prime minister and chancellor, is nevertheless so far ahead in the polls it would win a landslide if there were an election tomorrow.

For all her apparent dominance, May's cynicism and folly is forcing her to turn-brutish. She is going for a hard Brexit, which the majority of the Commons does not support, whose consequences were not spelt out to the British people, and which May, her Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Chancellor Philip Hammond do not -- if we take at face value their public pronouncements during the referendum campaign -- believe in.

The referendum mandated the government to take Britain out of the EU. That was all. Voters did not say and were not asked whether we wanted to stay in the single-market or customs union. We did not say and were not asked whether EU citizens should be left in fear of being wrenched from their jobs and, in many cases, their new families. Nor did we say we wanted a hard Brexit at the 2015 election. On the contrary, the voters returned a Conservative government whose manifesto declared: 'We say yes to the -single market.'

May doesn't care. Like Charles I, she is trying to rule without Parliament. She is-graciously allowing MPs to ask questions about Brexit, but telling them they have no right to decide on the terms of our departure. All that matters is that she has decided, like an absolute monarch, that the referendum was all about immigration. The only way to stop free movement is to abandon the single market and in all probability the customs union too. The know-nothing Tory papers cheer her on with asinine adulation. David Davis, who began his career as a Hampden and is ending it as a Strafford, assures the impotent Commons they need not worry about the plans of their betters because there will be 'no downside to Brexit at all'.

You only have to look at the plummeting pound, or listen to increasingly frantic business leaders, to suspect those words will haunt Davis to his grave. Somewhere in her mind, Theresa May must sense the coming job losses and fear the naive euphoria cannot last. So she summons the old Tory-alliance of snob and mob to keep a potentially hostile Commons in line.

At the Tory conference she contrasted her plain and honest self with those condescending elite politicians, who look down their well-bred noses at the public's patriotism and concern about crime and immigration, and cannot understand why 17. …

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