Something almost happened in the Brexit saga this week! After Tuesday’s parliamentary vote on May’s Brexit deal was cancelled at the last minute because she was clearly going to lose, Jacob Rees-Mogg and his ERG acolytes finally did what they have been threatening to do for a while: push for a confidence vote on Theresa May’s leadership of the Tory party. They finally got to the not-at-all-ironic figure of 48 letters from backbenchers, which triggered a vote among Tory MPs. The British Pajiba Overlords were watching with popcorn, while our American colleagues were wondering what the hell was going on. The House of Commons is usually just a jeering mess of MPs insulting their right honourable friends; this week, someone tried to run off with the big golden stick, and then it was like the Blue Wedding up in there. The ERG send their regards…
May won the confidence vote, but Rees-Hogg is still framing it as a sort of victory for his side, arguing that most of the 200 MPs who voted for May only did so because they are on her payroll, and that the size of the losing side, a total of 117 MPs, represents a crushing blow to her dignity. On Wednesday night, immediately after the result was announced, Rees-Mogg was arguing that she should still resign because of the humiliation. Cue lots of people on Twitter, piling on to say ‘you lost, get over it’.
The failure of the coup means that there can’t be another Tory party confidence vote for a full year. But May has already pledged to step down before the next General Election. It’s a somewhat odd strategic move on paper — give me a bit longer, then I’ll sod off, promise — but in real terms, exactly what Rees-Mogg and his ilk benefit from: May will take the flack for Brexit and someone else can take over when this Brexit mess has moved into the Tories’ dream Stage 4 scenario.
Stage 1: Decades of Blaming The EU For Everything
Stage 2: A Rotten Referendum
Stage 3: Inept Negotiation
Stage 4: Tax breaks and Turnips
Presumably, May imagines that the next General Election won’t be until 2022. But that’s really optimistic. She has survived one coup, but the parliamentary arithmetic is still against her. Her deal just doesn’t have the votes.
And so, May is in a last desperate push to get one of the sticking points looked at again by the EU: The backstop issue. If she can magically find a way to fix that, then she might be able to get the DUP back on board with her, or at least some of those 117 rebel MPs.
Odds of that?
So, the stalemate continues, and the Great Brexit Limbo goes on. (Unfortunately, it’s not the fun shimmying limbo. Now that, I could get on board with.) May is very much a lame duck PM for now, and so pressure has been building on Corbyn to FINISH HER once and for all by calling for a confidence vote in the Commons (it’s just the Tory party one that can’t happen again for a year), or a vote to trigger an early General Election. Trouble is, at the moment he doesn’t have the numbers either, and moving too quickly could remind rebel Tories that they hate Corbyn more than May, and cause them to put their differences aside. Far better, perhaps, to let them fight amongst themselves for a bit longer. But time (and the public’s patience) is running out.
In honour of the looming holiday season, join me in a couple of verses of a brand new Christmas carol, ‘Poor Theresa May’, which is in no way a cheap rip-off of ‘Good King Wenceslas’.
Poor Theresa May looked out
On the press gang lurking,
Suddenly she felt a doubt—
Her Brexit deal’s not working.
Why? She couldn’t understand,
She’d been so strong and stable.
But even though she’s very clear,
Her team don’t think she’s able.
“Hither peasants, stand by me!
I swear I’ll try to fix it!
Jeremy Corbyn, who is he?
He’ll sabotage my Brexit!
The people made their choice, you see,
There are no second chances.
And if you threaten me again,
I’ll do more awkward dances.”
Bring on your best festive satire in the comments, and let’s have a sing song!
Header Image Source: Getty Images