Sunday 20 October 2019

Editorial: 'Tories need to listen to the bard, not their own fiction'

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street after winning a confidence vote by Conservative Party MPs. Photo: Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street after winning a confidence vote by Conservative Party MPs. Photo: Reuters


For all the problems raining down on the head of Theresa May, she takes consolation in knowing her enemies look weaker still.

It will not be remembered as the finest hour for the Tories when, as their leader was struggling with the most important question the UK has faced since WWII, her confrères were conspiring to knife her in the back.

Even if she was only there because they were too divided to agree on a replacement, it ought never have come to this.

While it might be argued her failure to snuff out the mutineers once and for good made a challenge inevitable, it does not make it honourable.

The Brexiteers have led their country on a dismal journey beyond bewilderment.

Having traversed swamplands and fog through a People's Vote, "Norway Plus", "Canada Plus Plus Plus" or a WTO no-deal Brexit, they still find themselves knee-deep in the middle of nowhere.

Mrs May's errors were many, beginning with her catastrophic decision to call the election in 2017 after which she should have resigned; yet no one can question her honest commitment.

Beyond blind ambition and conceit it is hard to see any nobility in the motivations of those who sought to bring her down. Having promised people a Brexit they could never deliver, blithely and recklessly ignoring the intricacies of disentangling four decades of shared trade treaties, they peddled another fiction.

The pretence that a different leader would wrest a better bargain out of Brussels after the EU had ruled out a renegotiation proves them unworthy successors. A leadership election would not change the fundamentals of the negotiation or parliamentary arithmetic.

Self-interest rather than the national interest came to the fore.

A final vote on the deal, its ratification or a further referendum have to be considered.

Should they be faced with a no-deal, some Tory MPs may well look to a Labour government or a "government of national unity" to avert what they would regard as disaster.

All that can be said with certainty is Britain is divided as never before.

The possibility of a split within the Conservative Party can not be ruled out.

Hopefully, some clear thinking and direction can now afford some stability.

As the Bard said: "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries."

Upon just such a tide we find ourselves. Safe harbours are scarce but agreement on the Confidence and Supply agreement is very welcome. As for Mrs May, if drama is just life with the dull bits cut out, Britain's prime minister must surely be longing for the interval.

Irish Independent

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