Who’s Boris kidding over bid to kill Chequers plan?

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

Who on earth do Boris Johnson and his followers think they are kidding when they say they are merely trying to kill off the Chequers proposals for Brexit, and not to topple the Prime Minister?

“We are attacking the policy and not the person,” they claim. But are they really so naive?

Photo dated 12/06/17 of Prime Minister Theresa May with Boris Johnson

Photo dated 12/06/17 of Prime Minister Theresa May with Boris Johnson

I simply do not believe they are not aware that if Theresa May’s proposals are ditched, it would reduce the Prime Minister’s authority to near zero and make her more vulnerable to predators who want her job than at any other time of her premiership.

Mrs May has now publicly expressed her irritation about the continued speculation about her departure from office and who might succeed her.

She is commendably showing no sign of budging an inch from her proposals, despite the unease they have created in certain sections of the Tory party.

She must have been aware, with the resignations from the Cabinet of David Davis and Johnson himself, that her plans would cause trouble – but what political agenda of this magnitude ever did otherwise?

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has given the proposals a coolish reception, saying they are the best available for the time being. Not exactly a resounding endorsement but at least a temporary thumbs up.

The Prime Minister should be grateful for small mercies.

• The Liberal Democrats should be the party of Mr Micawber – always hoping for something to turn up.

Alas for them, it rarely does. But you have to hand it to a party, which is barely visible in the House of Commons, for dreaming up grandiose and hugely expensive policies as if there is the slightest chance of them ever being enacted.

Their latest pipe dream is a multi-billion pound so-called sovereign wealth fund, designed to spread wealth more evenly throughout the land.

The Lib Dems managed to struggle to double figures in a House of 650 MPs at the last general election, so I do not see this scheme as a likely runner. But you have to admire them for what I believe is called chutzpah.

Meanwhile, Sir Vince Cable is attracting some criticism over his slow-motion plan to step down from the leadership. He will go, he says annoyingly, when Brexit is either completed or stopped.

He is trying to lure “moderate” Labour MPs, unhappy with Jeremy Corbyn, to join his party. Equally he is trying to attract those discontented Remainer Tory MPs to do the same.

But what, I suspect, will be going through their minds is: “Why should I almost certainly lose my seat in what would probably be an abortive bid to bolster up a failing party.”

• Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, boldly takes her baby into the Commons chamber during a debate without, apparently, a murmur of protest either from other MPs or the infant.

But the general rule is that when the Commons is sitting, only elected MPs are allowed in the Chamber. So why did the Speaker, John Bercow, allow this to happen if he is – as he should be – such a stickler for the rules? In any event, there is a perfectly good creche in Parliament, which the taxpayer funded.

In short, why was she allowed so brazenly to break the rules and do so with impunity? Thanks to the Speaker, it has set a very bad precedent.

It also demonstrates what a rarefied atmosphere it is that MPs work in. What about female bus-drivers or those who work the supermarket tills? Their jobs aren’t so conducive as to allow them to be accompanied by their offspring at work.

As for Swinson’s claim that this helps to bring Parliament up to date - well, I just don’t get it.

• Broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby is no longer happy with his lot. He said this the other day: “The language of politics has been debased. It is cruel, filled with insult, sneer and personal animosities as a result of the confusion that reigns. And everyone is shouting in more extreme language from the rooftops. I think that people are bemused, frustrated and cross. No one is listening to what anyone says unless it confirms their own prejudice.”

And here was I, in my innocence, thinking that political insults and “personal animosities” are now a lot less robust than they used to be.

Perhaps Dimbleby has not looked back to some of the more savage outbursts which politicians used to inflict on one another.

Here are a few examples: “He has the lucidity which is the by-product of a fundamentally sterile mind” (Aneurin Bevan on Neville Chamberlain).

“A semi housed-trained polecat” (Michael Foot on Norman Tebbit).

“A shiver looking for a spine to run up” (Harold Wilson on Edward Heath).

“The immaculate misconception” (Norman St John Stevas on Margaret Thatcher).

Perhaps Dimbleby will now change his view and, like me, hope that political name-calling will once again become more intense. It all adds to the gaiety of life.