May achieved what Thatcher was famous for but never achieved, the outmanoeuvring of her Cabinet which would make Machiavelli blush. She owes Gove a lot

8 Jul 2018 at 09:44

I have never been a May enthusiast. I have always been of the view that she is hefted to avoid making decisions. That her instinct is to throw every tricky one into the long grass. Yesterday I was proved wrong.

Very often the threats that are leaked from Number 10 are nothing more than wind and piss which are eventually flushed away through the sewers of the Mail and the Telegraph. Yesterday I was proved wrong again.

It is not beyond belief that yesterday’s rout of psycho Brexit was the culmination of a long term plan. After all this month heralds the first blue moon in many years and a distinct possibility that England could win the World Cup. But that seems ungracious. The truth of the matter is that this rather awkward vicar’s daughter did something that Margaret Thatcher was always famous for but never really achieved. She routed her enemies in cabinet. She out manoeuvred them with a skill that would make Machiavelli blush. It was the man in the pub approach. ‘The only way you can get politicians to agree to anything is to lock ‘em in a room, take way their phones and threaten to take away their fancy jobs’. This was not just a sentiment, but the brutal reality. The Big Beasts, with their macho posturing, their empty threats and their pitiful attempts at bullying have been publicly humiliated. As Orwell might have said, he who controls the news controls the present. And he who controls the present controls the past. For the moment. At the moment the public are enjoying the sunshine and the football. They don’t give a damn about what Boris, Leadsom and the increasingly ghastly McVey claim to have said. They signed up. They backed down. They blinked first.

Of course they are entitled to leak their versions of events. The heroic words. The fighting talk. The Boris bon mots. They can just about get away with it. Briefly. But anything more will lead to their dismissal. This is not a threat but a welcome return to reality. Collective responsibility is coming home.

It would be foolish to underestimate the importance of the political rehabilitation of Michael Gove. His forensic analysis was the catalyst for unity. I have said this many times, but he is one of the few ministers in my memory who actually improves every department that he has run. He may be quirky but he masters his briefs and then thinks about them. This is sadly a rarity in modern politics. Ministers tend to be spoon fed by their Spads.

Gove has sensibly come to a pragmatic analysis. We are where we are. It is not a place where we wanted to be but let’s make the best of it. Although I am a fervent Remainer it is my analysis too. Gove can unite the likes of me and moderate Brexiteers. For those on the extreme ends of both arguments the game is up. It’s time for the grown ups to take back control.

Madame underestimates the pivotal role of Gove to get a respectable deal with Brussels at her peril. She must put behind her the old animosities as he must abandon Cummings and his kind. They must work together. Closely.

I give Boris a week, maybe two, to step over the mark and book his Uber ride from Downing Street. Micheal Gove would be an ideal replacement. He has averted catastrophe and deserves to be rewarded.

And what of Mogg and his ERG acolytes? They will huff and they will puff but they will not blow the house down. Their threats of leadership elections are just that. We have been there before. And Graham Brady will knock sense and grim reality into back benchers. Three words should do the trick. Corbyn and McDonnell.

Tomorrow will be a crunch day. Madame’s address to the 22 must be carefully orchestrated. Leading lights of both camps must publicly support her. I would be amazed if they didn’t. If Gove and Greg Clark can write a joint article there is more than hope.

Personally I still think leaving the EU is a terrible mistake. But I can’t turn back time nor indulge in the fantasy that the referendum decision can be reversed. We are where we are so let’s make the best of it.

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