RE­VEALED: The four men who hold the PM’s fate in their hands...

The Mail on Sunday - - Femail - DAN HODGES

IT WAS called The Quad. The ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ge­orge Os­borne and Danny Alexan­der that ran the coali­tion gov­ern­ment be­tween 2010 and 2015. Three years, and a life­time later, a new and pow­er­ful quar­tet is emerg­ing. And the fate of Brexit, the May gov­ern­ment and the na­tion it­self now rests on their ca­pac­ity to per­form in per­fect har­mony.

‘It’s ba­si­cally Michael [Gove], Saj [Javid], Dom [Raab] and Matt [Han­cock]’ a gov­ern­ment in­sider tells me. ‘They’re not hold­ing meet­ings with min­utes or civil ser­vants, or any­thing like that. But they’re work­ing closely to­gether now. They’re the ful­crum of the Cab­i­net.’

This new al­liance is built in part on ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ships. Gove and Han­cock served to­gether in the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion. Javid and Han­cock are both for­mer mem­bers of the Ge­orge Os­borne salon. Raab and Javid were part of the trans­for­ma­tive 2010 Tory in­take, and en­joyed the mu­tual ben­e­fit and curse of swiftly be­ing la­belled fu­ture Prime Min­is­ters.

But of far greater sig­nif­i­cance to all four men than his­toric em­pa­thy is con­tem­po­rary po­lit­i­cal ex­i­gency. Each of them has in­de­pen­dently – and then col­lec­tively – come to the view that we are reach­ing the defin­ing mo­ment of the May ad­min­is­tra­tion. And only a unity of ef­fort and pur­pose can see their party and coun­try safely be­yond it.

‘They come from dif­fer­ent wings of the party,’ an ally of one of them in­forms me, ‘and even more cru­cially, from dif­fer­ent sides of the Brexit de­bate. Saj a nd Matt op­posed, but Do­minic and Michael strongly sup­ported. But they all feel what’s re­quired now is some hard-headed prag­ma­tism. We’ve got to find a way of try­ing to get Brexit over the line.’

ASECOND Cab­i­net in­sider agrees. ‘ The thing that unites them is a re­al­i­sa­tion that we need a prag­matic ap­proach to Brexit now. We need to get through the next few months and to do that we’re go­ing to need to get some form of deal if we can.’

Up un­til now, the dis­cus­sions be­tween these veter­ans of the post-Che­quers bat­tle­field have been largely in­for­mal. ‘There have been a se­ries of drinks to iden­tify ar­eas of com­mon ground,’ a friend of one of them ex­plained. But de­spite this lack of a rigid or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture, like one of those Sec­ond World War films where the crack com­mando squad is as­sem­bled for the dar­ing as­sault be­hind en­emy lines, each mem­ber brings a unique dis­ci­pline to the team.

Gove is in charge of plan­ning. De­scribed to me by one MP this week as ‘ the un­of­fi­cial deputy prime min­is­ter’ he is the main linkman with Down­ing Street, and the per­son who tries to keep No 10’s strat­egy and that of the rest of the Cab­i­net aligned. As one Down­ing Street of­fi­cial put it: ‘Michael is key to our Brexit plans now. He’s in here on an al­most daily ba­sis help­ing co-or­di­nate our ap­proach.’

Do­minic Raab is the bomb-dis­posal ex­pert, tasked with the del­i­cate and dan­ger­ous job of pre­vent­ing the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions det­o­nat­ing in the Gov­ern­ment’s face. It was Raab who skil­fully – if some­what sweatily – de­fused the grow­ing cri­sis over the Gov­ern­ment’s no-deal con­tin­gency plan­ning. And it’s Raab’s im­pec­ca­ble Leave cre­den­tials that are be­ing used to re­as­sure ner­vous Tory back-benchers that the on-go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions will not see any ad­di­tional Brexit back­slid­ing.

Matt Han­cock is in charge of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, pri­mar­ily with those Tory mod­ernisers who are con­cerned May is al­low­ing their party to slip into the hands of Ja­cob ReesMogg and his Euro­pean Re­search Group (ERG). It was Han­cock who last week joined forces with Sa­jid Javid to put Bank of Eng­land Gover­nor Mark Car­ney on the spot over claims Brexit would lead to a cat­a­strophic slump in house prices.

‘Matt’s job is to run the Re­main­ers for Brexit cam­paign in­side the Tory party,’ one MP ex­plained ‘and to re­as­sure them that this doesn’t mark the end of the party’s mod­erni­sa­tion ef­forts.’

THE fi­nal mem­ber of the team, Sa­jid Javid, is the sniper. Cur­rently iden­ti­fied by the book­ies as the sec­ond favourite in the Tory lead­er­ship stakes, he re­tains the high­est level of po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal, and there­fore rep­re­sents the great­est threat to Che­quers’ prospec­tive op­po­nents – in par­tic­u­lar the large, lum­ber­ing, high-value tar­get that is Boris John­son.

Javid is also build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a politi­cian who makes mea­sured, but high- im­pact in­ter­ven­tions. ‘He learnt that from Ge­orge,’ a friend notes.

‘He can go quiet for a time but then when he ap­pears he makes it count.’ He will have to. As will the rest of his unit. The view in West­min­ster is that the past seven days has been a mini car-crash for Mrs May’s en­e­mies. Long- stand­ing splits within the ERG burst into the open with con­tra­dic­tory mes­sages about a lead­er­ship chal­lenge.

John­son was urged to tone-down his rhetoric af­ter his ex­plo­sive – lit­er­ally – com­par­i­son of May’s Brexit strat­egy with that of a sui­cide bomber in last week’s Mail on Sun­day. And the strat­egy it­self was boosted by com­ments from Michael Barnier in­di­cat­ing a deal could now be within reach. My un­der­stand­ing is that is cor­rect. ‘We will get a deal,’ a se­nior Cab­i­net min­is­ter told me. But, as he pre­sciently added, ‘the ques­tion is what hap­pens next’.

One thing that will cer­tainly hap­pen is the anti-Che­quers brigade will mount one fi­nal, des­per­ate charge. Down­ing Street be­lieves this will in­volve iden­ti­fy­ing some rel­a­tively mi­nor el­e­ment of the agree­ment, and at­tempt­ing to re­cast it as a fresh and mon­u­men­tal be­trayal. At which point, t he re­sponse of Michael Gove, Matt Han­cock, Sa­jid Javid and Do­minic Raab will be cru­cial.

If their tac­ti­cal acu­men re­mains sound, their nerve holds steady, they can keep chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open and their aim stays true, the Prime Min­is­ter could still sur­vive her mis­sion im­pos­si­ble. But if any one of them fal­ters – ei­ther by ac­ci­dent or de­sign – she is doomed.

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