Word has reached the SKWAWKBOX from Tory insiders that preparations have begun at CCHQ (Tory headquarters) for another ‘snap’ General Election, with May preparing to risk everything on a ‘back me or sack me’ gamble.
Word also comes from different Tory quarters that knives are being sharpened for a ‘civil war’ between ‘Centre One-Nation True Blue’ Tories and ‘bonkers right-wingers’.
With Labour riding high in the latest polls and the Tories at their lowest for years, the first option might seem wildly improbable – but the inevitability of the second may make it a more viable possibility.
May’s desperation to achieve some progress – any progress – in the Brexit negotiations led her into a cul-de-sac of her own incompetence’s making.
On Monday, the hapless PM leaked news of agreements over Ireland – before having to row back desperately when DUP leader Arlene Foster, whom she hadn’t bothered to inform about what she was planning, announced that she would under no circumstances accept any solution that put Northern Ireland on a different regulatory footing than the rest of the UK.
That leaves her with two options, both of which spell disaster for the government: plough ahead with an ‘all-Ireland’ option that will tear apart the Tory-DUP ‘confidence and supply’ agreement – or keep the whole UK within the customs union and single market.
Putting her on a collision course with the hard-Brexit fringe and triggering that civil war.
Being faced with two no-win scenarios, either of which can easily cause the government to fall, just might persuade Mrs May’s fevered mind that a General Election is the ‘least worst’ option for her Tory faction, such as it is.
The idea of another election is also made less outlandish by the fact that the Tories were recruiting just a few months ago – for a number of campaign managers.
It’s also made more plausible by briefings by ‘senior Tories’ – on the other side of the ‘civil war’? – to media this morning that May might resign before Christmas, which looks very like factional positioning and line-trailing:
The rumours can’t be substantiated and the chances are still fairly slim that May would take a gamble that nobody in her party thinks she can win – and it may be that the ‘preparations’ are an attempt to bluff her hard-Brexit opponents to back down, just as their ‘briefing’ against her to LBC and others is an attempt to manoeuvre her out.
But then, few would have predicted that she would go to meet the EU on Monday armed only with a hare-brained scheme and a complete lack of forethought and communication that painted her into a corner with both the DUP and the extreme fringe of the Tory party.
So keep a weather-eye open.
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