So in 1993 John Major’s leadership was plunged into crisis after claims that he described three Eurosceptic colleagues as “bastards” in comments accidentally recorded after an interview.
The remarks enraged the right of the Conservative party who Mr Major had promised a truce with Masstricht rebels.
The parallels end here but last Thursday night’s vote to give Parliament a final vote on any Brexit deal might have just created a new breed of “Tory bastards” this time from the remain wing of the Conservative party.
The decision made by 11 MPs to rebel and back Dominic Grieves’ amendment on the final Brexit deal has received a mixed reaction in the Tory party. Nadine Dorries – a one time serial rebel herself – has suggested they be deselected while Henry Smith managed a more slightly nuanced tone on the Daily Politics when he said the rebels had betrayed voters.
All this spells trouble for Mrs May as the thinking goes that these rebels wont stop rebelling here – and as they become more ostracised by their party they will start to rebel on domestic policy too. In the end the Government will face difficulty getting any meaningful legislation through – meaning no majority and potentially an early election.
Theresa May must now tread with caution in order to stop the so called mutineers from muttaing into her version of John Major’s bastards. Rather than face them down, the Prime Minister should go into listening mode. A lot of the MPs who rebelled – or who abstained – aren’t your normal rebels. It follows that if they feel the Government is listening to their concerns rather than ostracising them, they won’t feel backed into a corner.
Theresa May should learn from Major’s mistakes & avoid turning them into martyrs & offer them a way back. With talk rife of a New Year reshuffle she’d be well advised to bring one of them into the tent to show them this.
Alex Challoner, Founder – Cavendish Communications