Friday, 10 November 2017

The dead parrot of Downing Street

Theresa May's government is finished. It is no more, it has ceased to be. It has expired and gone to meet its maker.

It has, in the immortal words of the Monty Python dead parrot sketch, kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible. It is, in other words, an ex-government. (If you haven't seen the Monty Python sketch, or want to see it again, click here. You won't regret it.)

The government is a total shambles. Cabinet discipline has broken down, ministers make up policy as they go along, and Mrs May, described by George Osborne after her election deb√Ęcle as 'a dead woman walking', is now barely even walking.

Later this month, the chancellor of the exchequer will deliver his budget. If he gets it even slightly wrong -- which must be a pretty safe bet, given his record -- the government will be back on the canvas yet again. And so it goes on.

Politics-watching these days has become a truly gruesome spectacle -- the Westminster jungle is now at the mercy of sexual predators, lying ministers (sorry, ministers who 'may inadvertently have given a misleading impression'), and an incompetent prime minister paralysed by political weakness.

No wonder that, according to The Times, EU leaders are now actively preparing for the fall of Theresa May before the end of the year. After all, what's the point of continuing with the Brexit negotiations if she and her motley band of Brexiteers may be gone by Christmas?

The political paralysis risks doing serious damage to the UK economy, and by extension, to the lives of every one of us. The economic alarm bells are already ringing -- and there is no reason to disbelieve business leaders who say they will soon have to start implementing their Brexit contingency plans unless there is a breakthrough. If we are hurtling towards a cliff edge, the last thing we need is a government paralysed by deep internal divisions.

In one sense, none of this should surprise us. Even politicians, who like Lewis Carroll's Red Queen, are perfectly capable of believing six impossible things before breakfast, are bound to run into trouble eventually if they persist with implementing a policy that they believe to be fundamentally misconceived. Never forget: Theresa May voted Remain, and refuses to say how she would vote if there were another referendum.

Mrs May should resign. Her successor should call an election, which Labour may well win. Let Jeremy Corbyn have a go. He is at last showing some signs of understanding what a catastrophe Brexit is turning into -- so let the clever Keir Starmer chart a path to a so-called 'soft Brexit', in which the UK leaves the EU but remains part of the single market and the customs union. Put the deal to a referendum, and get it approved.

The NHS is heading for a winter of crisis. Homelessness is now once again a major issue in our biggest cities. (Last night, there were eight homeless people shivering beneath a railway bridge close to where I live in north London. A year ago, there were none.)

The introduction of the new 'universal credit' system of welfare payments is responsible for real human misery. Food banks are reporting huge increases in the number of people in need of help. The collapse in the number of EU workers taking up jobs in the UK (farmers and the NHS are already feeling the pinch) will soon translate into higher food prices and longer NHS waiting lists.

But none of this is on the political radar. The Tories' civil war is sucking all the air out of the body politic -- while the Labour party try to say as little as possible in the hope that the fruits of political power will soon fall into their laps.

Useless ministers like Jeremy Hunt, Andrea Leadsom and Chris Grayling should have been sacked months ago -- as should Boris Johnson, whose skin has only been saved this time by the reckless foreign policy freelancing of his over-ambitious ex-Cabinet colleague Priti Patel. (If a foreign secretary can keep his job even after he has carelessly buttressed a fraudulent prosecution case against a British citizen jailed in Iran, we have truly reached a new low in political probity.) 

The prime minister has outlived her sell-by date. She apparently believes that she has a duty to stay at the helm until a Brexit deal is done. But her colleagues must surely have realised by now that she is a busted flush; the only reason they are not telling her that her time is up is that they fear their party rivals would gain the upper hand under a new leader.

So she needs all the friends she can get. Which presumably is why as soon as she had dispatched Ms Patel on Wednesday evening, she changed into her glad rags and swanned off to a black-tie City dinner in honour of Paul Dacre's twenty-five years as editor of the Daily Mail.

And by the way, if you thought I was exaggerating when I referred to the Tories' civil war, how's this for a reaction to Mrs May's dinner engagement from David Cameron's former head of strategy, Andrew Cooper: 'The Prime Minister attending the "celebration" of the repulsive Paul Dacre's 25 years as editor of the disgusting Daily Mail is another depressing sign of the sickness at the heart of UK politics and the Tory Party weakly traipsing towards the edge of a cliff.'

Indeed ...


Unknown said...

This sums up the position admirably

Rita said...

A wonderful account of the utterly dire political situation. Says it all. Hope you don't mind if I share this on my Facebook page.

Carol said...

Saying it like it is again. Agree with everything said.

Unknown said...


Ellin Stein said...

Does this remind you of last enervated, infighting-riddled days of the Major interregnum?