"You have just lost the most important vote for a generation. It’s time for you to stand aside"by / April 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
It is the 24th June 2016—the Conservative Party wakes up to the news that Britain has voted to leave the European Union. Months of rancourous political argument, poisonous infighting and downright rudeness have come to an end. Life-long political friendships lie in tatters. It has been one of the worst-tempered campaigns in British political history.
And then things get really bad.
A telephone call is made. David Cameron answers. It is Boris Johnson. “Prime Minister,” says Boris, “you have just lost the most important vote for a generation. It’s time for you to stand aside. What’s more, there are over 100 of your own MPs who want you to go.” The PM’s response is as furious as it is straightforward: “Last year I won a General Election with an overall majority. I’m not going anywhere.” “In that case,” the reply comes, “you will face a vote of no confidence in Parliament.”
The House is recalled to debate the consequences of Brexit—it had risen on 15th June and was not due to return until the 29th. But the pound is beginning to slide. Ministers have been taking calls from business leaders demanding to know how and when the renegotiations will start, who will conduct them, how long they will take. The bond market is poised, ready to pounce. The Speaker calls the House to order. The Eurosceptic Conservative back benches are jubilant. They take it in turns to demand the Prime Minister’s resignation and each time are met with the gruff response—”I won the election, the public wants me here, so no chance.” A few Labour MPs also voice their satisfaction with the referendum result. Cameron waves them away.
Seeing no sign that Cameron is willing to budge, a senior Conservative backbencher stands to call for a vote of no confidence. The place descends into uproar. Then Jeremy Corbyn stands, and in the most significant speech of his life points out that yes, the government is in a state of complete collapse and that he and his party will vote against the Prime Minister.
Cameron is crushed and the vote of no confidence triggers a General Election. But Cameron refuses to resign. No Prime Minister has ever been forced from office so soon after a General Election victory and he refuses to budge. Boris delivers a speech to the 1922 Committee demanding the PM’s resignation, which he then repeats on the pavement outside the Commons. The weekend of the 25th, 26th June is one of the worst in the history of the Conservative party. Cheered on from the side lines by delighted Labour MPs, the Sunday talk show sofas are crammed with Tory Eurosceptics, white-lipped with rage in their condemnation of the PM and his unwillingness to step aside. Boris Johnson and Chris Grayling appear on the front page of several Sunday newspapers under the headline: “Prime Minister: you were the future once.”
Read more on the EU referendum:
Monday 27th: in Shanghai and Tokyo investors start to dump Sterling. And the euro. Both currencies tumble against the dollar, which gains strength, along with the Swiss Franc. Vladimir Putin sends a message of congratulation to the British people and Marine Le Pen is shown on the front page of Le Monde kissing a photograph of Nigel Farage.
In London the Prime Minister’s first call of the day is from Nicola Sturgeon, informing him that the Scottish Government intends to begin immediate preparations for a second Scottish referendum. She gives a press conference that morning in Holyrood, by the end of which the pound has reached parity with the euro.
The date for the General Election is set, and the Prime Minister is determined to contest it. “Why wont you stand down Prime Minister?” comes the shout from the press as Cameron returns to Downing Street that morning. In a break with tradition he storms over to the microphones to give his unrehearsed reply.
“The people who campaigned for us to leave the EU—who’ve nearly destroyed the Conservative party, who’ve crashed the pound, who’ve quite possibly led to the breakup of the UK—now they’re saying they want to run the country? The damned cheek of it. No. Not a chance. They’ve done enough damage.”
The next day’s headlines are brutal. One headline above a full page picture of Boris Johnson, Chris Crayling and Michael Gove reads: “Not a chance,” and beneath it, “’you’ve done enough damage already,’ says furious PM.”
Then the defections begin. Twenty back bench Tory Eurosceptics, calling themselves the Smith Square Group, go over to Ukip. The next day, five more. Boris Johnson releases a statement saying that he has known Nigel Farage for a long time and that he has great respect for his achievements. But he does not make the leap. (Headline: “Boris—where’s yer bottle?”)
Early polls from Scotland show 68 per cent support for independence. The first campaign poster is unveiled—a picture of Boris Johnson and David Cameron both looking worse for wear: “Don’t vote for the Eton Mess.”
“Ministers don’t know whether they are still ministers—or even in government.”
The following afternoon, the Prime Minister calls a press conference. He announces that he his standing down as leader of the Conservative Party—and that he is launching a new one. The New Conservative Party, he says, will campaign to restore Britain’s relations with Europe, and the rest of the world. The NewCons stand for continued reform of welfare but a lessening of austerity, which has reached its limit. George Osborne, on the dias behind the Prime Minister, is reported as “scowling,” throughout the speech.
The rump Conservative party is thrown into confusion as the Smith Square group attempts to re-defect from Ukip, only to be accused of entryism when its leading MPs begin a campaign to merge the Rump Conservative Party and Ukip. A furious debate at the 1922 Committee followed by a vote leads to the merger, and the birth of the Conservative Independence Party. Ministers are inundated with calls from business leaders, demanding to know when negotiations will begin. Ministers reply that they don’t know whether they are still ministers—or even in government.
A month later Scotland votes for Independence. The following day, the UN Security Council is dissolved and a new body is created—the UN Security and Cooperation Group. Britain does not have a seat on this new body. Ratings agencies downgrade Britain’s credit worthiness. The EU Trade Commissioner announces that, just like any other nation outside its borders, British imports will be subject to tariffs. Several large British manufacturers announce their intention to relocate to Scotland.
Boris Johnson beats Nigel Farage to become leader of the Conservative Independence Party, which is joined by a total of 80 former Tory MPs. The New Conservative Campaign poster is simply a large image of Boris Johnson—”he sunk the pound, ruined the economy, scared off businesses, made us less safe. Had enough of him? Of course you have.”
Two weeks after the Scottish independence vote, England Wales and Northern Ireland go to the polls. The Conservative Independence Party wins fifteen seats. The New Conservatives fare better. But happiest of all is Britain’s new Prime Minister, Jeremy Corbyn, who immediately announces his intention to campaign for Britain’s re-admission to the EU.