The news breaking on Sunday evening into Monday morning that no fewer than three Tory ministers – including Brexit Secretary David Davis – have resigned in dudgeon over Theresa May’s Brexit weakness will surprise anyone only because Tories tend to threaten but not actually deliver when it comes to rebelling.
Whether Michel Barnier would notice an empty chair opposite is highly debatable.
The government’s worsening chaos over the Brexit issue has been obvious to any honest observer since the referendum result was first announced – and the desperate measures May took last week at her Chequers meeting were only confirmation.
But the resignations have also served to highlight – again – the bankruptcy of the media estate that has been shoring up the government against collapse ever since the Establishment was rocked by Labour’s general election surge.
At the Cabinet meeting at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country retreat, last week Theresa May was forced to tell ministers that anyone who failed to agree to her ‘deal’ – in which she proposed to surrender on almost every front to EU negotiators, condemning the UK to a ghost-membership in which it was subject to EU rules without any say in them – would be forced to make their own way home, because ministerial limousines that had delivered them there would be withdrawn.
Yet after the meeting, the BBC and many other media fawned over May’s ‘deal’. The BBC’s political editor published an article [archived] on the BBC’s new site titled ‘The deal is done’, in which she told readers:
The deal is done. Or at least the deal that allows this fraught and complicated process to move to the next stage.
The article considered the idea that ‘one’ minister might resign over the imposed deal as unrealistic ‘almost possible’ and treated May’s manoeuvres as a success.
Yet in the early hours of this morning the very same URL – which should link to the original article – now takes viewers to an article announcing the resignation of Davis along with that of Brexit ministers Steve Baker and Suella Braverman and makes no mention of the earlier confidence it carried in May’s ‘done deal’:
The BBC’s broadcast coverage was no less effusive, talking of a ‘breakthrough’ and claiming May had ‘won the support’ of her Cabinet:
It was, of course, obvious to anyone who has been paying attention that the Cabinet’s ‘hard Brexiters’ – and the hardline fundamentalist Brexiters who influence them – were not going to just sit back and let Theresa May plough ahead with a deal that would ‘keep the UK closely aligned with Brussels’.
But the BBC made the claim of a ‘breakthrough’ nonetheless. And it was not alone.
The Financial Times lauded May’s strength in forcing through – they claimed – the deal:
Prime minister Theresa May has strong-armed her cabinet into backing a new vision for a soft Brexit.
The Guardian, supposedly opposed to the Tories, claimed she had ‘averted disaster’:
The hard-right Daily Mail claimed voters backed May’s plan, while the UKIP-supporting Express portrayed the ‘deal’ as a show of strength to the EU:
THERESA MAY’s Government has agreed to step up preparations to leave the European Union without a deal in the event Brussels rejects the Cabinet’s blueprint on Brexit following a 12-hour meeting at Chequers on Friday.
The Murdoch-owned Times talked of May’s claimed ‘Brexit victory’ – and on it went.
This morning, all the publications or journalists that last week treated the deal in any way ‘done’ have egg all over their faces. Some, like the BBC, have tried to wipe it away by simply re-using the page address for news of the resignations that they failed to treat as a realistic possibility.
But the resignations have done something else, too. They have demonstrated that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s intelligent refusal to publicly commit to positions that would have made the Tories’ life easier has been exactly the right thing to do – allowing the Tories to implode under the pressure of their own incompetence and divisions over Brexit.
A general election this autumn must surely now be a definite possibility.
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