This party is not fit to govern. May can’t hide behind the Queen’s speech
No gold carriage, no content worth the vellum it’s written on, nothing much to see here; move on. But where to? The Black Rod absurdity of the Queen’s speech flummery does nothing to disguise a rudderless country in the depth of crises unseen since the war as two Conservative-made disasters flap home to roost – Brexit and the great austerity.
This government staggers on, still trying to strike a costly and disreputable DUP deal, blackmailed by a party of extreme Christian fundamentalists whose laws enforce childbirth on raped underage girls. How humiliating is that to the reputation of this country that pretends to civilised values?
But that’s only a sideshow. The non-ruling Tory party is riven so deeply within itself on Brexit that it is ungovernable as well as unfit to govern. The meat of this parliament is contained in eight Brexit bills, covering everything from customs, trade, immigration and agriculture to fisheries and nuclear safety. The “great repeal bill” has lost its “great”. The genuinely great question is whether any contentious Brexit legislation can ever pass through this parliament and these Conservative MPs. This is the impasse parliament.
Battle lines are drawn within the party of chaos: 30 soft Tories who would back Philip Hammond’s desire to minimise the damage done are aligned as a group opposed to May’s “No deal is better than a bad deal”. On the other side, Suella Fernandes MP is chosen as a new face to lead the European Research Group of 60 hardened old faces who brought us to this Brexit crunch – the Redwood, IDS, Paterson, Villiers, Jenkin school of no pasarán fanatics. No wonder No 10 today lost its head of policy.
What did May say to Corbyn before Queen’s speech? – video
Can May survive? All that props up the prime minister is the ferocity of that mortal split within her own ranks. Like El Cid, sent dead into battle with his body strapped to his horse, she is in the saddle with no grip on the reins. But as each side fears she might be replaced by a leader from the other, they stumble on behind her. Besides, no other leader would fare any better in trying to get either a hard or soft Brexit deal through their divided ranks: the fear is that might mean no deal. For a less macabre image, the Tories are following Hilaire Belloc’s dictum, keeping “ahold of nurse / For fear of finding something worse”. But what kind of nurse is Theresa May?
Can this parliament last for two years until the Brexit deal is done? The other great crisis pressing in on them is the deluge from their seven-year austerity. Wherever they look, the optics are frightful. Met commissioner Cressida Dick says she can’t manage with these cuts: how can she be denied?
The NHS “capped expenditure process” forces the government to admit the inevitable rationing of care from its harshest spending squeeze since 1948.
Canvassing at school gates, Tory MPs returned to Westminster white-faced from the wrath of parents over widespread sacking of teachers this term.
What of money for fire protection of tower blocks at risk, or preserving the fire brigade?
Hammond may be soft on Brexit, but he’s hard as nails on spending. Keeping low taxes, intoned the Queen: if that’s the priority, austerity is never-ending. But it means this government may come to its end sooner rather than later.
Sweeteners were few: the energy bill cap, foxhunting and grammar schools are gone – but she slunk through 100% religious intakes for faith schools with no legislation. How does that sit with countering extremism and helping diverse communities cohabit?
On anything else, there is no capacity for new policies, as 750 Whitehall policy officials are taken from other departments to service the technical nightmare of Brexit, a civil service already bereft of a third of its ranks, so cavalierly dismissed as “bureaucrats”.
Was ever a government in such chaos? Was ever a party less fit to govern? Was ever the country brought to such a state, by the wanton fanaticism of Tory ideologues, with their toxic combination of state-shrinkers and Europhobes?