DW2Some early thoughts about a day and a night which made sleep almost impossible. The mind spins with theories and counter theories. The media are already screaming about the ‘Rise of the Brexiteers’, which means that everything I’m about to say might make little sense because, watching events unfold, little of that struck me as being quite true. ‘The Rise of the Brexiteers’ is a convenient holding title for something that is far more interesting.

There’s certainly a sense that the first appointments of the May era have placed Brexit proponents in outward facing roles. Yet throughout the EU referendum campaign, there were strong and weak advocates of Brexit. Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, and Iain Duncan Smith were three with the whitest knuckles whenever a person mentioned £350 million. On the weaker side were Boris Johnson and David Davies. It means that it’s suddenly quite significant from where May has picked her leavers. Only Liam Fox lives on the hard Eurosceptic side of the Tory Party. These appointments suggest that we won’t be rushing towards an immediate Brexit and whatever Brexit we achieve will be carefully negotiated. Also, some of this feels like a counter to the chance of a second referendum. The Liberal Democrats have already promised to run that promise past voters at the next generation election and, Owen Smith, now challenging Jeremy Corbyn for leadership of the Labour Party, has promised the same. At the very least, the next general election could well be a proxy second referendum.

Amber Rudd going to the Home Office was predicted. Boris Johnson at the Foreign Office was not and is naturally the big talking point. The appointment was greeted with much ridicule on both social and conventional media and it certainly takes a little time to work through the logic. It might well be clever political strategy. It immediately puts him on a chain, though whether Johnson would have caused trouble from outside the cabinet is questionable given May’s moderate overture to the nation. Johnson might have endeared himself to the grass roots with his successful Brexit campaign but he’s always been a One Nation Tory as well as something of a wet Brexiteer. Speaking outside the Foreign Office last night, Boris sounded a little bit more like Boris. A May government might mean that Boris is returning to his usual beat to the centre right. By a quite circuitous route, Johnson has ended up where he probably wanted to be or, at least, is quite happy to be for the moment.

An alternative reading is that the Foreign Office gives Johnson a perfect opportunity to either live up to his billing as a star of the Party or to live down to the widely circulated rumours about his lack of seriousness. Prime Minister May might have given Johnson enough rope to hang his political career, though, equally, she’s presented him with perhaps his best chance to prove himself a future candidate for the top job.

As to Johnson’s suitability, I wouldn’t be surprised if he found the job to his liking. Much of the work of the Foreign Office is done by diplomats. Where Johnson might shine is in the business he does rather well. He is personable, has a certain charm, speaks countless languages, and is, by nature, a citizen of the world. It’s easy to overplay his insulting President Obama. The President is a grown man. He can take it and he understands the grubby reality of politics. Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary might not be as crazy as it sounds. It might even be inspired.

David Davis is similarly well picked. A solid no nonsense politician, he was in line to be Leader before David Cameron seduced the party back in 2005. He’s another that doesn’t fit the profile of the hard right winger that some would wish to draw for him. Back in 2008, he resigned from the Shadow Cabinet complaining about the erosion of civil liberties and has become an outspoken critic of the UK’s treatment of terror suspects. He has also been one of the most vocal critics on the nature of surveillance and one of the few who seems to understand the practical effects of the governments Draft Communications Data Bill. He has also voted against raising student tuitions. On some social issues, he has a mixed record: voting against same sex marriage but voting for assisted dying, for greater regulation on gambling, voted against the hunting ban, did not support ID cards but has voted against green measures to prevent climate change. If he’s on the right then he’s one of those free thinkers that aren’t driven by ideology but some inner moral compass. It means that he might be unpredictable and, above all, pragmatic, which sometimes amounts to the same thing.

What is clear is that Theresa May has immediately turned around the Tory Party and pushed it back towards the centre ground of British politics. I said a few weeks ago that I thought the next election would be won by the first party to sort itself out and marginalise its extreme elements. Labour has had a few years to move to the centre and it has failed repeatedly. May has seen her chance and she is taking it. If she succeeds, the Labour Party splitting might come as something of a kindness since they are currently looking to be out of power for a decade or more.

It all makes me wonder about Nigel Farage’s tweet last night: ‘The appointment of @DavidDavisMP & @LiamFoxMP to Brexit and International Trade roles are inspired choices. I feel more optimistic now.’ I’m not saying that his optimism is misplaced but I do wonder if the coming months will see politics become deeply political, with intrigues the likes of which you normally see in an episode of Game of Thrones. ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is a great soundbite but, as has been often repeated in days past and will be repeated for many days in the future: nobody knows what the hell it means. Nobody, that is, except our new Prime Minister. With David Cameron we had a Prime Minister who sometimes tried to play the clever politician. With Theresa May we seem to have a clever politician who will now grasp the chance to be Prime Minister.

 

 

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11 Comments on "The Lady’s All For Turning"

  1. Peter Kennedy | 14th July 2016 at 10:18 am | Reply

    The news that Theresa May was going to be the next PM left me a very worried man as her record on personal liberties (especially surveillance) is not good. However, the news that Boris Johnson and David Davis will be joining the cabinet managed to lift my spirits a little. David Davis is a good man to handle the Brexit issue, quite how Boris Johnson will run the Foreign and Commonwealth Office remains to be seen.

    • May at the Home Office had a mixed record but the fact she stayed there so long suggests that she is a consummate and shrewd politician. Everybody about yesterday suggested shrewdness to me. Like I said: Davis himself has mixed record when it comes to civil liberties but he’s usually on the right side. Johnson will be Johnson. Given that we need a big presence on the world stage, he could be a good choice. People seem to assume he’ll be in charge of the detail. He won’t. He’ll meet and greet and promote the UK. Might be the perfect role for him.

  2. mahatmacoatmabag | 14th July 2016 at 11:01 am | Reply

    I am pleased that David Davis will be the Brexit supremo , he is a very capable & experienced politician as is Liam Fox at int’l trade, less happy about Boris as foreign secretary & I’m unhappy that Amber Rudd will be Home secretary as she has been involved in some shady deals with relatives being involved in government contracts which she failed to disclose at the time. The sacking of Gove & Morgan was not a surprise, Gove more than anybody else was her only serious rival for the job of PM & thanks to the Tory pro-EU establishment blocking his path to the premiership, May won an undeserved victory. I am hoping Chris Grayling will get one of the jobs vacated, hopefully May will give him Justice or Education.

  3. What struck me about your article were the comments “What is clear is that Theresa May has immediately turned around the Tory Party and pushed it back towards the centre ground of British politics.” If she implements what she said yesterday and has the right policies I think this could be true. Theresa May seems a very shrewd operator and out of all the madness of the last 3 weeks the country may at last have found some stability and calm .I saw Angela Eagles reaction to the Boris Johnson appointment and her incredulous and mocking reaction was a snap shot of the two parties .One currently looks like a serious Government with Gravitas and the other a protest party lacking any substance or credibility.

    • Neil Kinnock’s speech about Corbyn being perceived as weird had me smiling the other day. Angela Eagle on the other hand…… annoying squeaky voice, looks like a little boy, a lesbian who is married to a woman. If working class voters are as narrow minded as Kinnock believes she will hardly get them turning out in their droves.

      • I don’t think she’s really in it to win it. Living definition of ‘stalking horse’.

        That said, I wrote a week or so ago about Labour voters not being the same in the north as they are in the cities. They wouldn’t have been won over by Eddie Izzard in makeup and a pink beret. Hard to see them being motivated by Eagle. However, doubt if it will ever come to that.

        • You know David I do wonder what planet the Labour Party is on sometimes. One of the most baffling moments of the last election was Eddie Izzard, resplendent in skirt suit and heels supporting Jim Murphy on a walkabout through Glasgow of all places!. You can only imagine what the rationale behind that one was.
          Jim Murphy “Theres a danger we might not be completely wiped out in Glasgow”
          Labour HQ “Don’t worry were sending up a posh English crossdressing comedian to help out, ought to solve that problem nicely”
          Perhaps Eddie is surrounded by people who constantly tell how popular he is with the man in the street. One of those couldn’t make it up moments.

          • Been arguing this for the past 10 years. Politicians on both sides have failed to understand that this nation has regions where people talk, think, and act differently. They ignore us at their peril but that’s especially true of Labour who risk losing their heartlands to UKIP.

  4. I see Hammond today said that we would exit the single market and then negotiate access to it which pours water on any idea of a deal whereby we somehow never really leave the EU. Of course these are only words and words spoken by a politician more to the point so how much to take from them one can only guess. I’m not really a fan of Hammond but that is probably down to him being the latest person to be part of the our yappy dog act in conjunction with Falllon at defence, rattling the UK’s plastic sabre at a bemused and often amused Kremlin.

    I think Boris as Foreign Secretary has the element of a symbolic two fingers to certain elements on the continent but in reality I’m not sure how much he will have to do. The remit of international trade now lies with Fox and Brexit with Davis, he has really been given the role of glorified meet and greeter. As for Obama he is already a lame duck who will be a footnote in history in six months time so what Boris has had to say is neither here nor there.
    David Davis’s previous with regards to Europe was remorselessly whipping rebel Tory MP’s to back the Maastricht treaty so where he stands beyond stating that article 50 should be triggered by the end of the year I’m not really sure.
    I see our esteemed governor of the BoE has yet again signalled one thing about interest rates and then left them alone, I’m amazed anyone falls for his antics anymore he has done it so many times.

  5. Stacey McGill | 14th July 2016 at 3:37 pm | Reply

    David,

    A thoughtful and well written piece although in my opinion you have omitted one possibility – that this may have all been part of a Grand strategy for the long term on Boris’ part. His not running paved the way for May’s victory, painted Michael Gove as a back stabbing hack (and also left him as a “victim” of cut-throat politics) and the Foreign Sec. role gives him some much needed diplomatic experience (as London Mayor he got domestic training) if he thinks he might have a chance in the future running for the top job. Unless he screws up mightly in Whitehall I feel we haven’t seen the last of Boris.

    • Hard to believe Boris is that bright. He is, however, very lucky in that he is what May needs: a moderate Tory with the credentials of a Brexiteer. We’ve certainly not seen the end of him but his future is now very much in his hands. This is a lifeline. If he doesn’t muck this up, he might not need to return to journalism which, I suspect, he’d been contemplating until yesterday evening.

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