Major attacks rebels and tells Tory party to ‘show heart again’
FORMER Prime Minister Sir John Major has told warring Tory MPs to stop trying to sabotage ‘valiant’ Theresa May – or see her overthrown by a ‘poisonous, neo-Marxist’ government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
Sir John’s dramatic intervention in the Conservative leadership crisis came amid persistent rumours that Mrs May could be gone within weeks. Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, Sir John says he is dismayed by senior Conservatives ‘with their own agenda’ who were plotting against Mrs May – bound to be seen as a reference to the recent antics of Boris Johnson.
He writes: ‘I urge all Conservative MPs to reflect very carefully on what is at stake. The country has had enough of the self-absorbed disloyal behaviour we have witnessed for weeks.’
And in a highly significant move, Sir John says Mrs May must be more bold if she wants to survive.
He calls for big changes in the Government’s ‘timid’ policies to counter Labour attacks on ‘heartless’ Tories, such as scrapping the ‘messy, unfair and unforgiving’ Universal Credit welfare reforms. He also urges a big emergency rise in public spending to help the ‘have-nots’.
His comments come amid a series of additional blows to Mrs May’s hopes of restoring Tory unity and re-establishing her authority in the wake of her disastrous speech at the party conference in Manchester last week.
The Mail on Sunday can also disclose that:
Brexit Secretary David Davis wanted Mrs May to fire Mr Johnson for defying her over Brexit in the run-up to the conference;
Days before pledging to back Brexit in the 2016 referendum, Mr Johnson said he had to do so because he ‘couldn’t bear’ backing anti-Brexit PM David Cameron;
Boris ally James Cleverly, who has pledged loyalty to Mrs May, was accused by rebels of secretly plotting to bring her down – until he was ‘bought off’ with a Government job. He denies the claim;
Downing Street kicked two Tory MEPs out of the party for voting to block progress in Britain’s Brexit talks.
In his Mail on Sunday article, Sir John praises Mrs May’s ‘valiant’ attempts to stay in control. He says he can recall the disastrous Left-wing Labour governments of the 1970s and describes the prospect of an administration led by two convinced neo-Marxists, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, as ‘the return of a nightmare’.
In a cry from the heart, Sir John says: ‘Many people are angry and fearful over what the future holds. An uneasy nation is crying out for the Government to speak for them.’
A spokesman for Mr Davis last night said the claim that he thought Mr Johnson should have been sacked was ‘tittletattle’.
Meanwhile, MEPs Julie Girling and Richard Ashworth were suspended from the party for supporting a resolution to block Brexit talks moving forward.
‘Enough self-absorbed disloyal behaviour’
APPARENT weakness can often be a source of strength. The most famous example of this is the defiant message sent by the French Marshal Ferdinand Foch to his superiors in 1914: ‘My centre is giving way, my right is retreating. Situation excellent, I am attacking.’ He did so, and saved his country from defeat.
The Prime Minister should adopt this as her own private watchword. Her sniping, whispering enemies have thrown everything they have at her. They stood inwardly gloating at her misfortunes last week, vainly hoping that she would quit in despair and save them from stabbing her in the back. To her lasting credit, she did not oblige.
While willing to wound, her foes fear to strike. No wonder. Not one of her critics has shown any sign of being capable of holding the highest office in the land.
On the contrary, their petty irresponsibility at such a time shows only how unfit they are.
Mrs May must take advantage of this. Now is the time to use the considerable authority she actually has, thanks to the feebleness of her attackers and the overarching need to defeat Corbynism.
Now is the time to get rid of unreliable and worn-out Ministers, to bring on new and more loyal talent, and to move those who are more dangerous outside the tent than inside it.
Writing in this newspaper, the former Tory premier Sir John Major – himself the subject of endless disloyal attacks and sniping till he won a General Election – offers Mrs May some excellent ammunition, while savaging her critics.
The greatest concern of today’s Tory Party is the danger of a Corbyn government, which Sir John describes as ‘the return of a nightmare’ and ‘pure poison to any hope of prosperity’. Politics, he tells the troublemakers, is not a game and their activities must stop, for the sake of the country.
He warns against any wild swerve back to Thatcherite dogmatism, saying the Tories must not let ideology get in the way of common sense, or allow their farRight to dominate the stage and so repel moderate voters.
In a sharp break with the years of austerity, he recommends a giant effort to solve the housing crisis and stimulate the whole economy, borrowing money while it is cheap to do so, unshackling the private sector and sweeping aside much of our restrictive planning law.
At the same time, Sir John recommends a powerful, co-ordinated and sustained effort to teach real skills to the young, casting aside at last the damaging class distinctions between academic and practical qualifications.
Rightly, he says that only by giving hope to the whole nation, every social class and every region and country of the UK, can the Tories re-engage with the electorate and defeat the neo-Marxist Labour threat. And he rightly warns: ‘This can never be achieved while we restrict ourselves only to the drumbeat of Brexit! Brexit! Brexit!’
These are words of hard-won wisdom, from a man who has faced seemingly intractable enemies inside and outside his party, and overcome them. Of course such a plan is risky. But inaction and dithering are far more dangerous.
Mrs May should seize her moment.
Sir John Major OUTSPOKEN: