Tory strife must be music to ears of EU negotiators

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

Rarely have the Conservatives suffered such damaging and draining internal turmoil as is the case now.

The bad blood, which has been spreading through the party, is fast degenerating into open warfare.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, above with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in London on Monday May 14, is still in post as Foreign Secretary after describing the prime minister Theresa May's customs union plan as 'crazy'. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, above with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in London on Monday May 14, is still in post as Foreign Secretary after describing the prime minister Theresa May's customs union plan as 'crazy'. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

It has generally been the case in the past that the Labour Party, either by accident or design, regularly washed their dirty linen in public. But with the Tories, if ever there was a sniff of domestic strife, they would put up the shutters, making it virtually impossible for even the most diligent investigative reporter to discover what was going on.

That is no longer the case. The problems over Brexit have been laid bare for all to see: The Cabinet split down the middle and some Conservative back-benchers have been at each others’ throats. And at the time of writing, Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is still in his post since describing the Prime Minister’s view on the customs union as “crazy”.

The former Tory attorney general, Dominic Grieve has said Johnson should be sacked on the grounds that if a Cabinet Minister disagrees with official policy, he must either go along with it or get out. And Mrs May has said she retains full confidence in Johnson. Well, what else could she say short of sacking him?

All this strife must be music to the ears of the EU Brexit negotiators who are already determined to get their pound of flesh - and more - out of the UK’s decision to quit the EU. And this makes it much easier for the hard men of Brussels to get their way than if the British Government was totally united.

With the Tories weakened by such turbulence, now is the moment when the Opposition should be attacking them most fiercely. However, it is a sad commentary on the Parliamentary Labour Party that Theresa May is getting more grief from her own rank and file than she is from Jeremy Corbyn and his cohorts. A sad state of affairs.

The former Labour Cabinet Minister Tessa Jowell, who has died aged 70, was that rarity in the world of politics; someone who was admired and even loved - and I don’t think that is too strong a word - by her colleagues at Westminster, friend and foe alike.

The speech she made in the House of Lords recently, which urged more help for other cancer patients, has been rated one of the most moving within living memory at Westminster. Testimony of that was that she was accorded a standing ovation in the Lords - an accolade that has no known precedent at Westminster.

She was energetic, industrious, kind and honourable and never had a bad word to say about anyone. It has been rightly said that without her masterminding of the 2012 London Olympics, they would never have taken place - a massive and well-earned tribute.

The recent photograph of her and the Prime Minister in a warm embrace says so much about Tessa and the warmth with which everyone regarded her.

Many politicians seem besotted with the idea that they’ve got to prove to the voters that they’re just ordinary people. Well, for my part, I would prefer my MPs to be extraordinary, not just ordinary.

But the Tories seem to have gone one ludicrous stage further: They are being given lessons, for heaven’s sake, on how to show their human side on social media - as though we suspected they weren’t human at all.

They are being taught how to project “playfulness” on Instagram. Those MPs who manage to distribute pictures of themselves playing with an animal (preferably a cuddly one, I imagine) will gain valuable Brownie points from Tory chairman, Brandon Lewis.

This has all the hallmarks of a ridiculous PR stunt. Playfulness should be reserved for kittens. I would have hoped that Members of Parliament had discarded their toys long before they reached Westminster. This has been described as a Toytown Parliament. Now I know why.

John Cleese vowed to leave the country if Parliament rejected a proposal to inflict curbs on the media. Well, the House of Commons did turn down the plan, and so we must assume that Mr Cleese is now packing his bags and booking a flight out.

When someone expressed doubts that Cleese would actually fulfil that pledge, he replied: “Just watch.” Well, we are watching and waiting...

Meanwhile, fellow entertainer Paul O’Grady said he would leave the country if the Conservatives won the 2015 general election. Well, he’s still around after all this time. I cannot imagine what is keeping him.