Stuck in the middle

28th January 2018


May joins the Trump roadshow in Davos

If there is a sound that Theresa May cannot escape, it is the sound of sharpening knives.  Since her failed bid to increase her Parliamentary majority at the General Election last June, the Prime Minister has been living on borrowed time.  The swamp that is Brexit is likely to swallow May’s brief premiership and, with any luck, large sections of the Tory Party with it, at least for the time being.

Following this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, where May was reduced to playing a bit part in the Donald Trump roadshow, a ‘keynote’ speech on Brexit has been postponed, as war on the Tory backbenches and amongst her Cabinet colleagues once against spills across the press, social media and our TV screens.

The week began with a Cabinet meeting at which leading Tory opportunist and alleged Brexiteer, Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary last time anyone looked, trumpeted his desire to spend an additional £5bn on the NHS.  Few would doubt the need for such spend, not least Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who may yet pontificate on the Middle East situation next week, or Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has consistently called for the NHS to be at the top of the political and funding agenda.  As Corbyn made clear at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons recently,

“The Conservatives tax cuts for the super-rich and big business are being paid for by longer waiting lists, ambulance delays, staff shortages and cuts to social care.”

That Johnson trailed his views on the health service ahead of the Cabinet discussion clearly illustrates a breakdown in any sense of collective responsibility but also a growing contempt for May’s leadership amongst key members of her Cabinet.

Chancellor Phillip Hammond, in a hamfisted attempt to shore up the government’s position, suggested this week that being outside the EU would look and feel very much like being on the inside.  This sort of snivelling toadyism brought an instant rebuke from 18th century man and pretender to the Tory leadership, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who accused Hammond of working to turn the UK into a vassal state.

Rees-Mogg is the darling of the turn back the clock Leave.EU campaign and is likely to gain more media attention in the coming week as the House of Lords debate the EU withdrawal bill.  Media reports this weekend that May has three months to shape up or be shipped out will mean that the various pretenders will take every opportunity to get airplay.

Add to the mix claims that current opinion polls suggest there is growing feeling in the country for a second referendum on the terms of Brexit, with even Nigel Farage pitching in, desperate for publicity over something, and the future for May looks bleak.  She will be damned if she does and damned if she does not.  A Prime Minister stuck in the middle.

The alternative, increasingly looking like a government in waiting, is the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, pressing on the key issues of the NHS, housing, welfare reform and lack of investment in the public sector and infrastructure.  While the Tories tear themselves apart over Brexit, Labour are committing to providing 8,000 homes for the homeless by taking over properties deliberately left empty.

Where the priorities of ordinary people lie, and who can deliver for them, is becoming increasingly clear.

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