General Election this Autumn

Boris’s purge has seen some poor and underperforming Ministers leave government.  Who will set the new benchmark for incompetence now that Chris Grayling is out of Cabinet?

My money is on Gavin Williamson, based on past form. More surprising is the decision to sack many of the more competent and experienced members of Cabinet. Penny Mordaunt was, by all accounts, doing well at Defence.  She has matured as a politician, no longer making a reality splash or doing infamously silly speeches. After a good spell at DFID, her promotion was deserved and she had started to win the respect of the military top brass after the Williamson debacle.

Why sack Hunt? A particularly stupid decision that diminishes the new Prime Minister. James Brokenshire wasn’t setting the world alight as Communities Secretary, but neither did Sajid Javid when he was in that role, sadly a Department that has become a Whitehall backwater, much reduced and now housed in a corner of the Home Office. Brokenshire was respected when he was in the Northern Ireland role. Some of the best chose to leave rather than be sacked. I have long been an admirer of Greg Clark, who I shadowed for a time in Parliament, and Rory Stewart who made an impression a decade ago when I first met him. They were activist Ministers who knew how to get things done.

This government will be weaker, less competent, and less able to get its business through than Theresa May’s Government. I’m sorry to be a pessimist in the face of Boris’s unicorn believing optimism, but he hasn’t a cat in hell’s chance of getting Brexit done.  A big tent Boris would have constructed a government that would help build a majority in Parliament.   Rudd and Morgan are notable remainers, but overall Boris has, deliberately, alienated a large chunk of Tory MPs. And where Theresa May had reached out to try and win some Labour votes for her deal, will any Labour MP back a Boris Brexit championed by Rees Mogg et al ?

The parliamentary arithmetic makes a Boris Brexit impossible, with or without a deal.   The EU will not compromise the single market, so there must be a provision for the Northern Ireland border.  Any change to the ‘backstop’ will be cosmetic.  In the brave new world, Ireland’s Leo Varadker is much more powerful than any UK Prime Minister. The EU will back Ireland, its member, against the UK, every time. Get used to it. No Deal is not an option, Parliament will stop it. Letwin, Cooper and Benn, now joined by the ex Cabinet ‘Gaukward Squad’, with a helpful Speaker, will use every Parliamentary device possible to prevent the UK from crashing out.

So what will happen? A General Election later this year is likely. Frustrated by Parliament, Boris will ask for a majority to get Brexit done. Tricky though, because Brexit voters might be tempted to back Farage’s candidates instead. The risk of a Corbyn government is perhaps less, now that the Lib Dems are resurgent electorally and have a charismatic new Leader. I predict any General Election will lead to another hung Parliament. We’ve got years of chaos ahead.

Andy Sawford by:
Andy Sawford