Mrs May – Time to go

After the House of Commons’ debate on May 7th and 8th 1940, on May 10th the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain indicated that the great battle which had opened in France and the Low Countries that very morning, led him to believe he should carry on as Prime Minister. He also wished to form a National Government with the Labour and Liberal parties. The Labour party indicated it would not serve under him. As we all know, by the end of the day, the King had invited Winston Churchill, a rumbustious figure, viewed with suspicion in both main parties, to form a government – and the rest is history.

The circumstances are not quite the same today, but not far off. The Conservative Parliamentary party, which split 3 : 1 in 2016 against Brexit, is now reluctantly fighting for it[1]. In 2017, as in 1940 we face a determined opponent in the EU with the whole Continent more or less ranged behind it. The weapons are not military, but economic. There was some argument before the election for a national government to counter and manage the threat of anti-British elements in the EU. Now with EU negotiations due to start on June 19th – seven days away – the argument, if not insistent, is stronger, and may get urgent later in the year.

Another general election then would solve nothing, but Mrs May should do now what Lloyd George advised Chamberlain on May 8th 1940 – to start the process of consulting the Conservative Parliamentary Party about her successor. Like Churchill in 1940, a quick-witted, determined figure is surely needed to lead what will be a national battle to survive the forthcoming battle with the EU[2]. The only people who come anywhere near the prescription are Boris Johnson, former Mayor of London, Leader of VoteLeave in 2016, and presently Foreign Secretary and David Davis, presently Secretary of State for Brexit.

It might be thought that David Davis, the tough-minded leader of the Brexit department, is surely best left in place to conduct the actual negotiations after 12 months of learning about the EU and its negotiating ploys.

The home front will also have to have close attention paid to it, given the chance of a further student-fuelled surge at the next General Election and by-elections in the meantime. Whichever of the two is actually chosen as Prime Minister, the ideal is surely a partnership: Boris Johnson concentrating on the Home front and David Davis working on Brexit.
End Notes

[1] Just as the bulk of the Conservative party, which in 1938 was not very keen on fighting Germany, after Munich came reluctantly to believe a year later that the war had to be fought.

[2] The EU is quite open about the objectives of its forthcoming battle with Britain: “The UK economy must not be seen to thrive after Brexit” (senior EU official June 9th) and similar remarks over the last few months.

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