The greatest victim of today’s indulgence is the national interestby Jonathan Lis / December 12, 2018 / Leave a comment
For all Brexit’s toxicity, it has always provided people with the comfort of their convictions. If we believe strongly in either Brexit or Remain, we know which side to support and defend. But today’s confidence vote provides a rare exception: people don’t know what to think. Whether seen through the lens of party political advantage or of Brexit, Theresa May’s moment of judgment offers neither catharsis nor hope. Disliked though she is by Leavers and Remainers, her departure will not provide long-term comfort to either. Indeed, not only does the Tory Party’s internecine disintegration deliver no obvious victory, it spells paralysis for the Brexit process either way.
If the prime minister wins tonight’s confidence vote, she will finally live up to one half of her doomed election slogan. Certainly not strong, but defiantly stable. Although the weakest and most inept prime minister in modern history, she will have the freedom to lead her party—and very possibly the country—for at least another 12 months, endowing her high office with the uniquely poor judgment she has generously demonstrated for the last two and a half years.
May has proved that she can only lead the country into paralysis. Her Brexit deal had joined the choir invisible before the ink was dry on its paper, but still she clings to it like a grieving friend in denial of reality. She tolerates no alternatives, listens to no advice, and lies that her deal delivers on the promises she spent two empty years repeating. Given the impossibility of a new leadership bid, it is not inconceivable that she will insist on pursuing her deal even if it creates a dangerous stand-off with parliament that takes us to the precipice. It seems unimaginable that she will ever recant her obsessive hostility to immigration, acceptance of which is the prerequisite not just for EU membership, but a soft Brexit. Worryingly for Remainers, May will never regain her authority, but could greatly increase her power.
Beyond Brexit, May’s fundamental problem is that her party will not want her even if it votes for her. One Tory MP told me that he was lending his support through fear of the alternatives. Many colleagues will feel the same. They will be saddled with a leader who likely cannot win a general election. That, at…