Boris Johnson is a ‘man of the moment’, but his moment may, tragically, have passed …
Yet while his fringe event was packed out, unlike the main conference hall which was often half empty, there is a distinct sense that Boris’s time might have passed.
Theresa May … is still there and shows no sign of going or of being forced out …
Well, yes. I’ve been saying for a long time now that May needed to be dumped quickly, and that if she’s still in place by the time of the Conservative conference it would too late. It’s now too late.
The blows she has endured since then would have flattened Anthony Joshua; and yet I can only report from seeing her here in Birmingham that she looks in remarkably fine fettle, both determined and optimistic that she will get through in the end.
The reason is the Tory MPs. It’s tempting to blame the Brexiteers and the Tory right for losing their nerve, but they would have forced a confidence vote in a flash if they thought they could win it. But they know they can’t. Actually, maybe now they can if the mood reported in this article is correct. But it’s clear that the majority of MPs haven’t wanted to get rid of May when it mattered. The members haven’t wanted her, nor have the associations, so you can’t blame them. It’s the squishy MPs who are to blame.
This means that May will deliver a soft Brexit. There won’t be a no-deal Brexit. It’s too late for that. For that to take place you’d need a lot of time to sort out the details, because a no-deal Brexit would in fact be a lots-of-little-deals Brexit, to sort out logistics of flights and border arrangements, etc. There isn’t the time for that now.
And May hasn’t got the stomach to push through a no-deal Brexit anyway. Forget all the theatre the other day in her pretend patriotic speech, which as I said at the time was balls. She’s going to roll over for the the EU, who have known all along that she will, as long as they hung tough. As Johnston says:
For all the hoo-ha over the type of post-Brexit trading arrangements the UK is to have with the EU, most ministers and senior Tories I have spoken to think so, too …
One veteran Brexiteer put the chances of Mrs May landing a deal and getting it through Parliament at 90 per cent. While an argument may rage now over Chequers minus or Canada plus or Norway squared, once a deal has been reached (and there is too much at stake on all sides for there not to be one), the dynamics will change.
The strategy all along was play for time, and then before you know it will be too late to change, or to have a no-deal Brexit. That has worked. May is simply going to ride it all out. She may bring down her party as well as the country in doing so, but she doesn’t care, as all she knows is that she knows best.