May has been well and truly Rogered. Her Laager louts must be brought to heel to fend off a constitutional crisis

4 Jan 2017 at 13:07

Let it not be said that Theresa May hasn’t been well and truly Rogered. The radioactive fallout from the atomic detonation unleashed by our man in Brussels will linger and poison for years to come. This is the beginning of May’s nuclear winter of discontent.

What is so troubling is that Ivan Rogers did not resign over policy disagreements. Far from it. His job was to get the best deal for Britain’s exit from the EU. His sin is that he is an expert. The most skilled negotiator that we had. His job is to advise, to give policy options and then do his best to carry out ministerial instructions after a decision had been made. His mistake was to by pass Timothy and Hill on a press briefing when May was Home Secretary. These guys never forget and never forgive. Roger’s revenge was to do it again. Number 10 never had an inkling about what was about to unfold. And their response was pathetically amateurish. The official line at the moment (it will change because it is so ludicrous) is that he is leaving early as his posting finishes in October and wants to put in a fresh team for the long haul. And the ‘ill founded arguments and muddled thinking’, refers to the civil service who should have been working on how we Brexit before the result of the referendum was known. The second stage will be to rubbish him as a Foreign Office, Brussels lacky, who wants to sabotage the May master plan. But as the Queen discovered there is no master plan nor even a plan. Just blind faith. The Brexit strategy is like an American motivational DVD. ‘You can do anything you want if you really believe in yourself. Sadly not. But the ’plan’ is probably nearer to that great philosopher Noel Edmund’s cosmic theory. His belief is that by writing what he wants in life and puts it under his pillow the cosmic forces oblige. This is government by miracle. A particular brand of Voodoo economics where anyone who warns of the serious consequences of Brexit are nothing more than doom mongers who want to thwart the will of the people. Judges are unelected and therefore can’t be trusted. And experts? Pah!!!

Many commentators were quick to compare May to Thatcher. Those of us who actually knew her, rather than the saccharine myth and legend that swirls round her by those who should know better, realise that May ain’t no Thatcher. She used to love political arguments. She would row with Ken Clarke and Jim Prior. Sometimes she would accept that she was wrong. Thatcher actually believed in compromise. May’s Achilles kitten heel is that she surrounds herself by control freakery. Surely the lesson from Gordon Brown’s disastrous premiership is that you can’t micromanage government from Downing Street. And it is foolhardy to try.

But Rogersgate is far more serious. It has sparked a debate about the role on an impartial, professional civil service. The Mail and the Telegraph will now launch on a attack on our civil service. If May doesn’t stand up for them government and decision making will die an atrophic death. It could trigger all sorts of horrors on the back benches and beyond. She is going to have to get a grip. There will be calls for Timothy and Hill to go. They won’t as she is fiercely loyal. They will now become the lightening conductors of protest against her. It won’t be long before cabinet ministers will be briefing against them a little more openly simply because they will be concerned that they will be the next to be undermined.

Sadly Timothy and Hill will be the gift that keeps on giving. The wagons are now forming around Number 10. And her elves will be dubbed the Laager louts. They must be brought to heel. Fat chance. This administration faces a constitutional crisis which must be managed with care and sensitivity. I won’t hold my breath.

I can understand why the PM wants to keep her cards close to her chest. The fear is that they are all jokers.