The Sun is not happy with Philip Hammond. Not one bit. For his intervention in telling the nation the obvious, namely that we’ll need some sort of transitional deal after spring of 2019 in order to stave off crisis, he has been given a black mark. The most interesting aspect of the Sun article about this, however, is the following line: “The Prime Minister must tell him to belt up”. It is a beautiful example of a fantasy the political press is indulging in, hard, at present.
After the 2017 general election went the way it did, pundits predicted that May would stay in post for some unknown period, but that during this time she would have very little power. We would have government by cabinet again, some rejoiced and some lamented – others going so far as to say we’d essentially be ruled by oligarchy. What is strange is that the pundits were proven exactly right about this, yet they seem to want to shirk the credit and instead indulge in a mirage in which May has regained her power and is in as strong a position as she was before June.
It is extremely obvious that she is not in that position, or indeed, any position of genuine power. The only thing she has total control over is when she decides to quit. That’s it. For instance, how would Theresa May tell the chancellor to “belt up” exactly? If she had real power, Hammond would be long gone by now and everyone knows it. Is this all part of a game? In other words, everyone’s objectively figured out Brexit will be defined by compromises, fudges and half-measures and Theresa May seems to be hanging around so that she draws all the poison for that, right? Fine, but why is the rest of the Right going along with this pantomime? Is the disappointment Brexit will almost certainly bring too great to bear otherwise? I suppose it could be a pining for the pre-June 2017 settlement, which if you’re a right-leaning Eurosceptic is understandable.
In the meantime, please ignore any article imploring Theresa May to do one thing or another. She can’t do anything, really. The country is currently being run based on very informal arrangements between the cabinet minus May and the 1922 Committee. I think this is a (minor, admittedly) step up from May as pre-1215 style monarch, or Corbyn as prime minister for that matter, so I’m relatively okay with that. The shape Brexit takes will mostly be decided by the European Commission, with guidance at our end by Davis and Hammond more than anyone else. Unless May really does quit and then who the hell knows what happens – which is probably why she’ll hang around for a while, a convenient figurehead.