Boris, as ever, is leading the charge for the Tory Brexiteers. In doing so, he has explicitly laid out the strategy of trying to destroy the Chequers “agreement” while simultaneously keeping May in Number 10. As he writes in the Daily Telegraph on the matter:
“It’s not about the leadership. It’s about the policy. It’s not about changing prime minister. It’s about chucking Chequers.”
The reason for this strategy is simple: those who favour a hard Brexit within the parliamentary Conservative Party do not have the numbers to win a vote of no confidence against the prime minister. So, they have to pretend that they don’t actually want her to go. That they really, really like her as PM and are in fact desperate for her to stay in Number 10, they just don’t care for Chequers. There is a huge problem with this strategy, however: it makes absolutely no logical sense whatsoever.
In a very real way, the Chequers plan is Theresa May’s premiership. Or more accurately, there isn’t really anything else to her time as prime minister. Whether that was what she wanted when she got the job or not, Chequers is pretty much the sum total of it. None of her plans to make the economy more equal have got off the ground; Brexit really has been everything. So, to want to keep Theresa May in post while trashing the one thing that defines her time there really doesn’t make any sense at all. But that is where the ERG has ended up. It suggests they haven’t played things well since the 2016 referendum, to say the very least.
Saying you want to keep Theresa May as prime minister while dumping on her one and only quasi-substantive policy is like saying that while you love the Beatles, you hate every single one of their songs. Like saying “Forrest Gump” is your favourite movie, even though you loathe every scene, image and line of dialogue throughout. Like saying you are in thrall to the art of opera, except all of the bits where people are singing.
How did Brexit end up in such a state? Brexiteers are in danger of ending up with the legacy of all their efforts over the past two years being having created a genuine pro-European feeling and movement in Britain where there had previously been none.