It really hit the fan yesterday, huh? We all sort of knew it was coming, yet that didn’t stop it being somehow spectacular when it finally unfolded. There has been a massive amount of comment on what happened yesterday with the various resignations and so forth; here, I’m only going to try and cover the stuff I’m still unclear about or that hasn’t been covered extensively elsewhere (at least to my knowledge):
This one first: why the hell did May offer Gove the DexEU job? I realise it seems at this point not to have ended disastrously, what with Gove saying he’ll stay in DEFRA all but confirmed, but that was nearly politically suicidal on May’s part. She has in Gove a Brexiteer that is not only willing to stay in the cabinet, but is supportive of her “deal”. She then puts that all on the line to offer him a job anyone could have told her he almost certainly wouldn’t take? What if Gove had declined the Brexit secretary job and then thought that, having not taken that up, he couldn’t then stay in government? May would have lost the last big name Brexiteer from her ranks, which probably would have caused more resignations from the ministerial ranks, chief amongst them Mordaunt. Also, in an upcoming vote in parliament on her “deal”, she would have lost not only Gove but everyone who possibly would have been persuaded to vote for the thing on his prompting. In a vote that is on a knife’s edge, let us remember, where every single vote counts, and that is of existential importance to both the future of the entire country and her premiership.
At the very least, this is a very good argument against the “Theresa May is secretly a genius” trope – it seems like her thinking was, “well, Micheal is a leading Brexiter, and there’s no one else now, so why not?”
Secondly, I think I’m missing something with the whole DUP thing. They have said they are not going to vote with the government on the “deal”. Arlene Foster has also basically said, albeit in slightly coded terms, that the DUP won’t support the government until the Tories have a new leader. So, um, doesn’t that mean the government no longer technically has a majority? I know that, particularly post-Fixed Term Parliament Act, this means a lot less than it used to, but it’s still pretty monumental. If the 48 letters are actually in as rumoured, and there is a vote of no confidence in May’s leadership, won’t the fact that the DUP no longer supports May be a large factor in said confidence vote? This feels like it’s been lost in all the drama.
Finally, I don’t really understand the ERG’s plan here. Any which way this all works out, they end up in a bad place. If May wins the no confidence vote, it won’t be a sign of strength as they protest, but a sign of weakness. If May loses that vote, it gives succour to those calling for a government of national unity – the government will have no leader and no majority, which is not a great look any time, but particularly in a moment of existential crisis for the nation. And they will be put in a spot to make their unicorns become reality, with no excuses remaining.