We’re all going on a summer holiday
NO Parliament will have gone on holiday with more relief, or left Westminster in greater bewilderment, than this one. Neither Government nor Opposition is contemplating an early election and, although no one is in a hurry to replace Theresa May, at least three members of her Cabinet are watching each other like hawks in case one makes a move.
On the other side, Labour may have given up hope of displacing Jeremy Corbyn, but the Brothers are seriously at war. About a quarter share his hard-left agenda; most of the rest think it’s bonkers. Moderate voices are seeking to ensure that the curse of Brexit doesn’t extend to them and that it’s blamed entirely on the Tories, but Mr Corbyn has an emotional inability to support EU membership properly. A high proportion of centrist Labour MPS are now back in their constituencies concentrating on fighting entryism and deselection by extremists.
Parliament is prorogued at a time when neither major party looks electable. The Liberal Democrats are trying to understand why, contrary to all previous experience, their electoral fortunes are not significantly improved by perceived extremism to the Right and the Left.
All this is in the context of a volatile electorate and the impossibility of credible political forecasting. None of us can know where the UK will be this Christmas, let alone when we do—or don’t—have a deal on Brexit.
Within the Cabinet, we’re seeing the damaging manoeuvring of a small faction similar to the one that marred the Major government. As well as leaks from within, groupies outside think they’re helping their leadership candidate by spreading dirt about his rivals.
They want to undermine any minister in Mrs May’s Cabinet who warns of the cost of Brexit and the potential complexity of the negotiations. This explains the intentionally false spinning of remarks made by the Chancellor, who stands out as the one powerful voice, reminding his colleagues of financial reality.
Backbenchers, particularly those in marginal seats, are increasingly angry at these self-regarding antics and are demanding a sacrificial sacking or two; unfortunately, Mrs May is probably not secure enough to deliver this.
No wonder the summer recess is a great relief all round. It ought not, however, to be so much a respite as a renewal. All three parties have to recognise that they left large sections of the electorate high and dry. Many people feel entirely cut off from the political process. Unless politicians can recover their relevance and their courage, they will do irreparable harm to Britain and to our political institutions.
Mrs May needs the summer to develop a real political programme outside Brexit, which, within the confines of parliamentary arithmetic, reaches out to those left behind, restrains the extremes of the free market, acts firmly on housing and shows a determination to protect the environment.
Mr Corbyn needs to remember that he didn’t win the election. He should reflect that political volatility is such that his current popularity could easily disappear like a puff of smoke. If he wants Labour to win next time, he must move to become a unifier: stopping deselections, thinking through a logical Brexit stance and a large dose of fiscal probity would put him in pole position.
The failure of either leader to use this summer wisely would give the Lib Dems their chance, but they will have to wait for it. In the meantime, it may be the holiday season, but for the Tories and Labour, that shouldn’t mean any rest.
‘Parliament is prorogued at a time when neither major party looks electable ’