Mrs May should paraphrase Louis XIV’s famous pronouncement and declare “le cabinet, c’est moi”.
In her case it wouldn’t be an affirmation of autocracy, but simply a statement of arithmetic fact. Two cabinet minsters have resigned this morning, followed by a school of small fry.
Another day of this, and Mrs May will have no one but herself to talk to at cabinet meetings. That, I suppose, will be the only understanding and sympathetic audience she’ll be able to find anywhere this side of Mr May.
Since I don’t think our constitution provides for such a solitary experience, Mrs May is politically on her last legs – because her Brexit deal doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
The resignations of Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Works and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey suggest that the PM just may have been too hasty when she announced yesterday that the cabinet was behind her.
By the looks of it, the cabinet is way ahead of her in the rush to the door. Or perhaps ‘way ahead’ is wrong: I can’t see how Mrs May can possibly hang on. The requisite letters from Tory MPs to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, are streaming in, and a vote of no confidence beckons.
As a veteran of political rough-and-tumble, the PM may hang on to power for a week or two, but not for much longer.
Pragmatic Tories among as, such as Stephen Glover, the sage of The Daily Mail, who voted Leave, and Daniel Finkelstein of The Times, who voted wrong, defend Mrs May by saying that, yes, the deal she negotiated is flawed.
But, they sigh, it’s the best deal on the table, and anything else would be much worse. So let’s support the Prime Minister who’s doing her best.
Pragmatism is indeed an essential characteristic for a Tory, but not when it comes in conflict with fundamental principles. Marshal Pétain, for example, was another conservative guided by pragmatism.
Collaborating (the term he first introduced) with the conquering Nazis was doubtless the pragmatic thing to do. Alas, it clashed with enough basic presuppositions to earn the good marshal a death sentence, commuted to life imprisonment.
This despite his reputation as the heroic victor at Verdun and the nation’s saviour in the Great War. Unlike Pétain, Mrs May hasn’t won any major battles I can think of, so her position is even shakier.
However, the risks are smaller: we have no death penalty on the books and, even if we did, Mrs May wouldn’t deserve it. Her only crime is finding herself catastrophically out of her depth.
However, I may agree with Mr Glover and Lord Finkelstein that the supine surrender negotiated by Mrs May is indeed the best deal anyone could get.
For there are no good deals to be had when what’s being negotiated should be non-negotiable: the nation’s freedom and sovereignty.
The two gentlemen I mentioned both seem to think that a no-deal exit would be catastrophic for Britain. I disagree.
Yes, we might suffer some economic discomfort for a while, and I personally would suffer more than most, what with my spending half my time (and money) in the eurozone and constantly travelling back and forth.
But our economic losses would be minor compared to those Britain suffered defending her freedom and sovereignty during Germany’s previous attempt to unite Europe.
It’s guaranteed that 700,000 won’t die fighting, nor will our cities be devastated by the Luftwaffe, nor will we have to beggar ourselves in exchange for American largesse. We won’t have rations based on dry milk and swedes. Our supplies won’t end up on the bottom of the oceans courtesy of U-boats.
No deal is the only good deal. Nothing else will regain Britain’s full sovereignty – and this is what the issue is all about, or should be.
Once we’re well and truly out, then by all means let’s talk deals. For now let’s not get too gloomy with our predictions.
Of course, the eurospivs will do all they can to make our life a misery in the aftermath of a no-deal exit. But there’s only so much they can do.
International trade is governed by WTO rules, and I doubt the EU would want to leave that organisation just to spite Britain.
And their threats of closing the Channel ports, barring British planes from landing in the EU and blocking British exports ring hollow.
Put together, such measures are tantamount to an economic blockade, which since time immemorial has been treated as a casus belli. And if those EU chaps don’t believe me, they should ask the shadow of Napoleon. See you at St Helena, gentlemen.
But I’m running ahead of myself. First things first. Let’s get rid of Mrs May and the other cabinet Quislings, and replace them with politicians more attuned to our ancient constitution.
Meanwhile, congratulations to Mr Raab and Miss McVey. Resigning on a matter of principle isn’t something I thought our politicians were capable of.
Of course, it’s possible they only acted out of a realistic assessment of the way the political cookie crumbles, which ability is perhaps the second best thing. One way or the other, my hat’s off. And I never even wear a hat.