Theresa May: Dance of Death
Fed up with Brexit? Fancy a break? Treat yourself to a nice day out at the Tower of London.
While you’re there, check out the Rack. And its equal and opposite, the Scavenger’s Daughter.
Neat little device. Instead of stretching people it squeezed them. Ever so hard.
Whatever you do, try not spoil the fun by thinking about Theresa you-know-who.
But how can you not?
Poor dear was pushed to breaking point by the EU 27 in Austria this week. As bad as being pulled apart by her own people back home.
At least The Grand Old Duke of York’s ten thousand men did as they were told. No such luck for her.
A brief recap. At the Salzburg summit a few days back the President of the European Commission Donald Tusk did not say the Prime Minister’s so-called Chequers plan needed a spot of fine-tuning. Or even a lot of it. He said it wouldn’t work. Period.
Echo there of General De Gaulle back in 1967 when Britain was trying to get IN to the then Common Market.
By implication, ‘over my dead body’. Which was how it panned out. Literally. Perhaps he had a point, given the referendum result in June 2016.
It took the Prime Minister two years to corral the cabinet, or most of it, into agreeing even what to ask for by way of departure deal. The so-called Chequers formula, under which the UK would agree to a “common rule book” on goods, though not on services.
The theory being that collecting tariffs on behalf of Brussels would keep the Northern Irish border open.
The problem being that the EU fears if the Brits have their cake and eat there’d be a kind of hashtag me too movement across the continent.
Eurosceptic voters in France, Holland, Austria, Italy and Denmark. Dribbling for a nibble.
The upsurge in populist right-wing thinking lays bare the EU’s fragility. Hence its leaders’ rigidity.
But their problems are nothing to Theresa May’s.
Back in Downing Street she said they should show a bit more respect. Polite way of saying she’d like to rip their toenails out.
The Daily Express, no shrinking Brexit violet, said it was her finest hour. Implying plan B is to blow up German dams and carpet-bomb Dresden.
A stretch, but there is a hardcore of Tory MP’s as dismissive as Mr Tusk of the Chequers plan. Not because it’s too beastly to the European Union, but because it’s not beastly enough.
Unlike the Tory remainer rebels, these guys will stop at nothing to get their way.
And, given the parliamentary mathematics, they could sink this government if they chose.
Alternatively, they could boot Mrs May out. And Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is not so much on manoeuvres and chucking nukes around. Arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg is also purring round the cream.
In coming days Cabinet ministers will need to take time out from contradicting one another in public to put on their thinking caps. And try to work out what Mrs May can possibly say to keep the party faithful faithful at the upcoming Tory conference 2018.
Last year’s was bad enough, what with that tickle in the leader’s larynx, and the backdrop losing letters behind her. But it could look like an Ann Summer’s party in a convent next to what’s in prospect.
The brute fact is Mrs May’s mentors have no idea what to do next. They’ll come up with a keynote speech, for better or for worse. But words are not deeds. Twenty-seven to one is tough odds, especially when the lonely leader is taking as much flak from behind as in front.
There’s still time to say time is running out, but only just. If there isn’t a deal by November it’s hard to see how it can be ratified in time.
So minds really are turning to the unthinkable. The no-deal scenario. And the mooted fears of medicines and food running short, lorries grinding to a halt, aeroplanes not leaving the tarmac and everyone getting poorer.
Theresa May gets cross about media coverage of Brexit focussing more on her than the nation. Seems like she’s got a point.
Cue a second referendum? Just the thing to magic it all away?
A new poll suggests 86% of Labour party members want one. Eighty-six percent ?!? Yup. Blimey. Jeremy Corbyn’s not keen, but admits he can’t really argue with that.
Other surveys suggest second thoughts about Brexit among the wider electorate. A small majority for staying in after all. But way, way short of a racing certainty.
Just when you thought the stakes couldn’t get any higher, they just did.
Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his wonderful takes on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.