Stephen Daisley Stephen Daisley

Who governs Britain?

There are moments that cut through the din of braggadocio, vindictive utopianism and arrant stupidity surrounding Brexit. Anna Soubry has provided one in an impertinence during yesterday’s debate on the cross-border trade bill. She let into Jacob Rees-Mogg and his European Research Group (ERG) for coercing ministers to abandon much of the substance of the Chequers Brexit blueprint. Then, standing mere metres from the Treasury benches, she enquired:

‘Who is in charge? Who is running Britain? Is it the Prime Minister or is it the Honourable Member for North East Somerset? I know where my money’s sitting at the moment.’

Before the crazy set in, an MP taunting the Prime Minister as a feckless weakling would bring the full nuclear hellfire of Number 10 raining down upon their head. That Anna Soubry won’t proves her thesis. The PM is too feeble to insist that her MPs at least pretend to respect her in public. Theresa May is not in power without authority — she’s without power too.

The Prime Minister’s Chequers blueprint involved much wishful thinking and some outright self-deception but it was an even accommodation of soft and hard Brexit. It is something Tory supporters should have been able to settle for, albeit not cheerfully. They did not in large part because Theresa May failed to sell her own plan to her own people, allowing the hard-right to frame it as a sell-out. Consultation is an alien concept to May and another hangover from her Home Office days. You don’t have to worry about stakeholder buy-in when your stakeholders are banged up.

Now May is a hostage of the Brexit fundamentalists who have hijacked her government. In public appearances she looks like she should be holding up a copy of this morning’s New York Times while blinking her coordinates in Morse code.

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