What the com­men­ta­tors said

The Week - - News -

“Morally speak­ing, this is an equal op­por­tu­nity hor­ror, one that dis­graces all the par­ties,” said Matthew d’an­cona in The Guardian. But it is worst for the Tories: firstly, be­cause they are in power; and se­condly, be­cause it plays into their im­age as the “party of pre­sump­tion and en­ti­tle­ment”. The whole af­fair car­ries “the stench of nas­ti­ness, of a repul­sive droit de seigneur. But it is also a spec­ta­cle of ab­sur­dity: all these grey men try­ing it on, miss­ing the point, pa­thet­i­cally in­dif­fer­ent to the dam­age they cause.”

Even the most gifted of prime min­is­ters would have strug­gled to cope with this cri­sis while also jug­gling Brexit, a “stut­ter­ing” econ­omy and a tiny ma­jor­ity, said Dan Hodges in The Mail on Sun­day. But May’s re­sponse has been par­tic­u­larly clumsy. While rightly launch­ing in­quiries into se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions, she of­fered no re­but­tal of the many un­sub­stan­ti­ated and ma­li­cious ac­cu­sa­tions and ru­mours lev­elled at 44 Tory MPS in the so-called “dirty dossier” cir­cu­lated on­line. And she then made mat­ters worse with a “dis­as­trous” reshuf­fle, re­plac­ing Fal­lon with for­mer chief whip Gavin Wil­liamson, whose only qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the job, in the eyes of many in­can­des­cent Tories, is his close­ness to the PM.

The sleaze row has fur­ther un­der­lined the weak­ness of May’s po­si­tion, said Ge­orge Parker in the FT. Her Cab­i­net is show­ing signs of “tip­ping into an­ar­chy as min­is­ters flout her author­ity and en­gage in bit­ter feuds”. We’ve al­ready had the “ac­ci­dent-prone” Boris John­son setting out his own “red lines” on Brexit. Now we hear that Priti Pa­tel, the In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tary, has been con­duct­ing her own for­eign pol­icy while on a fam­ily hol­i­day in Is­rael (see page 6). May, “con­strained by the need to re­tain a bal­ance in her top team be­tween both sides of the Brexit de­bate”, has never looked more im­po­tent. For the PM, the real cri­sis would be the de­par­ture of Green, said James Forsyth in The Spec­ta­tor. He is her clos­est ally, trusted enough to take de­ci­sions on her be­half. Min­is­ters fear that with­out him around, the Gov­ern­ment would grind to a halt.

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