Pound Undulates as PM Theresa May Makes Waves
“Boris negotiated in Europe. I seem to remember last time he did a deal with the Germans, he came back with three nearly new water cannon.” – candidate Theresa May on her now appointee as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson
It seemed a hopeful sign with the pound jumping to its highest level in a week when Theresa May a lackluster backer of the Britain’s EU Remain campaign and closeted Eurosceptic, took over from Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday. But as she announced her cabinet – notably the very undiplomatic and vigorous Brexit campaign leader, Boris Johnson in the key role of Foreign Secretary at a time when Britain must shore up alliances rather than make enemies – the trend did not hold; the eyes of London’s weary but optimistic traders became downcast as the currency tumbled before the close.
May’s Cabinet announcement came as something of a surprise. Johnson had initially supported May’s primary rival, junior minister of Energy and Climate Change, Andrea Leadsom – a fervent Brexiter as well – who bowed out of the campaign in the “national interest.”
OPPOSITION COALESCING AROUND LEADSOM COLLAPSES
Leadsom had initially launched her campaign to best position herself for a top cabinet post in a presumed Johnson government (which was sure to be supported by then Justice Secretary Michael Gove). When Gove turned on Johnson, publicly claiming he didn’t have the leadership skills to be Prime Minister, an act that many in the British public found disloyal and distasteful – and which lead to Johnson’s withdrawal from the race – Leadsom’s campaign was catapulted as the only lead Brexiter other than Gove to oppose May. Indeed, Johnson backed her and many found compelling the argument that only she should lead the country because May did not represent the 52% majority who voted leave in the referendum.
She won her the backing of Thatcher’s PR adviser Lord Bell, the Ukip funder Arron Banks and Ukip’s former leader Nigel Farage. Her campaign gained momentum and by the second ballot in the Conservative leadership race, she’d gained almost twice the support of Gove but fell considerably short of May’s 199 MPs.
With Gove’s campaign imploding,the UK became assured of gaining only the second female Prime MInister in history, after Thatcher. While Leadsom’s politics held with that of her idol, it was May who proved more Thatcheresque both in the way she and her team went after Leadsom – and in the axe-wielding cabinet shuffle that ensued after she took command of the party.
In the end, Leadsome proved to be too polarizing of a figure, and members of her own party attacked her candidacy sharply. Last week fellow minister Nick Boles reflected alarm in parts of the parliamentary party at her rise when he told Tory MPs he was “seriously frightened about the risk of allowing Andrea Leadsom on to the membership ballot”.
Daughter of an Anglican Pastor and staunch Christian, Leadsom was opposed to divorce and unmarried couples with children, even – except when it came to gays for whom she opposed marriage in any form an abomination (and she was opposed to gay adoption, as well). Also, despite being a minister responsible for combatting Climate Change (she admitted coming to the position asking the question, “Is climate change real?”) she was a strong proponent of fracking. The controversial process of carbon extraction involves blasting huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep into underground rock formations to access oil and natural gas but which has harmful environmental implications, including increasing air pollution, stimulating earthquakes and, especially, consuming copious amounts of the word’s increasingly scarce clean water supply.
Leadsom, who had modelled herself on Margaret Thatcher (the portrait of whom adorns her office wall), and shared that leader’s far right wing views, carried on calmly as they say in the UK. But her inexperience showed as she was unable to stop the media from spinning comments she made about family into an assertion that she would make a better PM because she was a mother, unlike May. At pains to clarify her remarks, she further alienated from mainstream Britons as her campaign manager complained about an “onslaught of often very personal attacks from colleagues and journalists” and “spin and underhand tactics against decent people”.
The press piled it on with headlines like those in the New Statesman on July 5th: “9 reasons you should be truly terrified of Andrea Leadsom becoming Prime Minister”
Faced with the prospect of a long bruising campaign followed by perhaps humiliating defeat, she withdrew, feeling: “under attack, under enormous pressure … It has been shattering,” said Leadsom.
BORIS, THE DIPLOMAT
Just two weeks ago, a member of David Camerons’ cabinet while launching a leadership bid, lambasted the negotiating capabilities of London ex-mayor, Johnson: “Boris negotiated in Europe. I seem to remember last time he did a deal with the Germans, he came back with three nearly new water cannon.” The critic was then leadership candidate and Home Minister – now Prime Minister – Elizabeth May.
May was referring to the controversial decision to buy three used water cannons from the German federal police for £218,205, which Johnson took as mayor of London. Johnson had claimed the money saved the city the £2.3m – the extra cash would have been required to buy them new. But the prospect of using German hand-me-downs did not impress May who blocked their use by English or Welsh police as Home Secretary.
Johnson hit back against May on the same day, criticizing her refusal to guarantee the rights of EU workers to stay in Britain. “It is very disappointing that this should be called into question. It is absolutely right to issue the strongest possible reassurance to EU nationals in this country, not just for moral or humanitarian reasons but for very sound economic reasons as well. They are welcome, they are a vital part of our society,” Johnson said.
A spokesman for Mrs May said: “Theresa was very clear about the position of EU nationals in Britain, and argued that it was equally important to consider the rights of British nationals living abroad.” As Prime Minister, she still hasn’t assured those already in the UK of a continued right to stay.
The statement prompted opponents like Leadsom and her surrogates to claim that May was using the EU nationals as “bargaining chips” for future European negotiations.
Johnson’s apparent compassion for current EU residents of the UK aside, some of Europe’s leaders have reacted explosively, certainly undiplomatically, to Johnson’s appointment.
Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier called Johnson’s behavior outrageous.
“People [in the UK] are experiencing a rude awakening after irresponsible politicians first lured the country into Brexit and then, once the decision was made, decided to bolt from responsibility, and instead go off and play cricket,” Steinmeier said. He was referencing Johnson’s decision the day after the vote to play cricket at the Althorp estate, the stately home of Earl Spencer. He added: “To be honest, I find this outrageous. It’s not just bitter for Great Britain. It’s also bitter for the EU.”
Not to be outdone, France’s foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, who met Johnson when the two men were both mayors, called him a liar. “During the (Brexit) campaign, you know he told a lot of lies to the British people and now it is him who has his back against the wall,” Ayrault told an interviewer on a popular radio program in France.
The Guardian reported that in a blogpost, the European commission vice-president, Frans Timmermans, said he was a passionate anglophile. But he said the “hatred and bigotry” unleashed by the leave campaign “took me completely by surprise” and added that he was stunned Johnson brought the Nazis into the debate. In May Johnson likened the EU to a project by Adolf Hitler.
Timmermans also cited Johnson’s claim the previous month that Barack Obama held a grudge against Britain because of his “half-Kenyan ancestry”.
“Would it not have been enough to say that you disagree with the American president’s point of view? Why discredit not just his motives, but even his persona, with borderline racist remarks?” Timmermans wrote.
He went on: “The problem with hatred however is that, once used casually as an instrument in political discourse, it can prove very effective in reproducing itself. Of course this loss of control doesn’t happen when one is simply debating big topics with the chaps at the Oxford Union … But in the real world of a referendum on the future of your country the kind of arguments used have consequences.”
At home, Labour MP David Lammy summed up the reaction of many in a tweet, writing: “Boris Johnson as our Foreign Secretary? Is this a bad dream? An elaborate wind up? Please God help us”.
Elsewhere in Germany the reaction was even more negative. Simone Peter, the co-leader of the Green party, compared Johnson’s new job to “trusting the cat to keep the cream”. The former London mayor was “properly, properly hated”, said Anne Gellinek, the Brussels correspondent of public broadcaster ZDF.
In Brussels – where Johnson is due to attend his first foreign ministers’ summit on Monday – there reaction to his impending visit was distinctly underwhelming. .
“It its important to have someone in place who allows for calm and serene negotiations,” added one EU diplomat. “These are not the qualities we have seen from Boris Johnson so far.”
In Paris, reports the Guardian, Johnson has long been seen as an outrageous “French-basher” and bizarre English eccentric, once summed up by Le Monde as “a Monty Python-style politician who appears to avoid taking things seriously”.
His appointment provoked an amalgam of outrage and shock from French media and commentators, many of whom had been put off by what was seen as the intellectual dishonesty of some of Johnson’s comments during the referendum campaign, namely his Hitler remark.
Johnson, who speaks French with a rather proudly strange accent, has garnered quite a reputation for French-bashing. He famously mocked the French government as “sans culottes” and called for companies to flee to London, “mes amis,” he added.
Speaking to reporters outside the Foreign Office on Thursday, Johnson reacted minimized the reaction, saying that Ayrault had sent him a “charming note just a couple of hours ago” which looked forward to their work together and to “deepening Anglo-French cooperation”.
“After a vote like the referendum result on 23 June it’s inevitable there is going to be a certain amount of plaster coming off the ceiling in the chancelleries of Europe. It wasn’t the result that they were expecting. Clearly they are making their views known in a frank and free way,” Johnson said.
Johnson made other statements during the press remarks, which seem counter-intuitive at best and perversely delusion at worst. Most glaring among them is his view that the Brexit vote did not mean leaving Europe; rather he saw it as indicative of future intensification of relations.
He said: “I set out what I think that we need to be doing and what we need to be focusing on, and that is reshaping Britain’s global profile and identity as a great global player.”
“And on Europe clearly we have to give effect to the will of people in the referendum, but that does not mean in any sense, leaving Europe. There is a massive difference between leaving the EU and our relations with Europe, which if anything I think are going to be intensified and built up at an intergovernmental level,” Johnson added.
None of this has caused France and Germany to back away from their leaders’ stated position that the ambiguity around Brexit should not continue – and that the new Prime Minister should trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon imminently.
Russia, for its part, looked forward to “turning the page” on relations with the UK under the auspices of the new Foreign Secretary
“The book of Russian-British relations has been waiting for the time when not the best page in the history of bilateral cooperation will be turned,” the spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. “If the British side has the wish and intention under the new foreign secretary, we will support this,” a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said Thursday, according to TASS news agency.
The spokeswoman said current relations “could hardly be described as cooperation,” adding that Russia “will not miss [Philip] Hammond,” Britain’s former foreign secretary and new chancellor of the exchequer.
When asked about Johnson’s past gaffes, the spokesmen expressed confidence that as Foreign Minister, he would be more tight-lipped, adopting, “a different rhetoric, a more diplomatic one.”
NEW BREXIT SECRETARY
Europe’s misgivings over Johonson’s appointment may be moot. Their leaders won’t be negotiating with the Foreign Secretary at least when it comes to Brexit.
After a spell in the wilderness, resigning on principle to take a stand against on civil liberties against David Cameron’s anti-terror detention law, former Europe Minister David Davis returns to the front bench in the key position of Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (or Minster for Brexit as it is becoming known colloquially).
A long-time Eurosceptic and prominent voice in the leave campaign, in an unbelievably ironic twist, the new Cabinet member responsible for taking Britain out of Europe has pursued legal action in the European courts against surveillance laws, which May introduced as Cameron’s Home Secretary. It was a move, which saw Davis reaching across the aisle to join hands with Labour deputy leader Tom Watson to jointly challenge the legality of the Government’s Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014.But that’s the UK, these days – a twisted paradoxical pretzel.
Looking for more irony? Davis, who despite being a Eurosceptic, first made a name for himself the whip on MPs (as Assistant Party Whip) when Prime Minister John Major to ratify the Treaty of Maastricht, which created the structure for the EU and established the Euro as the common currency.
He was a strong and feared Shadow Foreign Secretary, and was projected by many as Tory leader. Indeed, his upbringing contrasted sharply from that of Cameron’s life of privilege, coming from a South London council estate and raised by a single mother (by Leadsom’s measure, shouldn’t he be a criminal?). He outperformed the pack at grammar school, garnering an Army scholarship to Warwick University, joining the SAS. In this capacity, he had his nose broken no fewer than five times.
He also studied at Harvard before starting a successful business career at Tate and Lyle. His rags to riches story with a military record thrown in the mix was seen as a compelling narrative by which the Conservative party could woo working class voters away from New Labour. But his loss to Cameron in his second bid for leadership (the first being in 2001) was seen as definitive.
Cameron didn’t keep him on the backbench, though. As Europe Minister, he established a reputation in Brussels as being tough. “Monsieur Non,” they called him at the EU Parliament – a nickname that put a smile on his face.
Davis has a reputation for being a staunch libertarian who was never afraid to speak his mind, even if his opinions fell outside the party line. He has worked closely with former Liberty director Sharmista (Shami) Chakrabarti, who is a member of the Labour Party. He resigned as MP and Shadow Home Secretary over the 42 Day detention Law brought in by the Labour Government, arguing strongly to Cameron and George Osborne that the Conservative Party should be on the side of civil liberties. The move prompted former Labour Shadow Home Secretary and then culture Miniser, Andrew Burnham to insinuate that Davis’ stance was a result of his close relationship with the civil liberties chief and their “curious” phone calls. The pair, both married, were furious and Chakrabarti threatened to sue Burnham, who later made a public written apology.
Davis’ long CV and principled reputation may come as little consolation for Europe. His opinions seem to echo those of fellow Brexiter, Johnson, whom Europe currently despises. Davis has said Britain should trigger Article 50 and formally notify the European Union of the country’s intention to withdraw from the bloc “before or by the beginning of next year.” May has since said she didn’t see it happening before the end of the year. This is at odds with most European officials.
Like Johnson and other Brexiters, Davis has said the “ideal outcome” for negotiations is continued free-tariff access to Europe.
“Once the European nations realise that we are not going to budge on control of our borders, they will want to talk, in their own interest. There may be some complexities moving their operations in the UK, through the people they employ and the sales they generate, will more than offset any reduced corporation tax,” Davis said.
Writing for Conservative Home earlier this month, Mr Davis said: “This is one of the reasons for taking a little time before triggering Article 50. The negotiating strategy has to be properly designed, and there is some serious consultation to be done first.”
“This whole process should be completed to allow triggering of Article 50 before or by the beginning of next year”
“In this process, we should work out what we do in the improbable event of the EU taking a dog in a manger attitude to Single market tariff free access, and insist on WTO [World Trade Organisation] rules and levies, including 10 per cent levies on car exports. Let us be clear: I do not believe for a moment that that will happen, but let us humour the pre-referendum Treasury fantasy.”
SHIFT TO THE RIGHT ON CLIMATE CHANGE?
Perhaps the most disappointing of May’s appointments was that of Leadsom’s ascendency to the Environment portfolio. Although during the leadership campaign, she had made statements supporting Britain’s efforts to combat climate change.
Speaking to Energy professionals before dropping out of the campaign, Leadsome said: “It’s here that I’d like to be especially clear, to correct any misperceptions people may have about the implications of the EU referendum result. Decarbonising our energy system is not some abstract regulatory requirement. It is an essential responsibility that we hold towards our children and grandchildren, as the only way to effectively counter the threat of climate change. However we choose to leave the EU, let me be clear: we remain committed to dealing with climate change.”
Some hope that, like a born-again Christian, she’ll tackle the environment portfolio with a renewed fervor of a sceptic-turned believer.
Others aren’t so optimistic. Certainly, her support for fracking betrays either a lack of awareness of the environmental costs or a more cynical laissez faire attitude on the issue. And, the fact that she “made no apology” for the cuts in incentives for low-carbon power that the current government has made, adding that the market would decide the UK’s future energy supply, fails to build confidence in those skeptical of her ability to handle the portfolio.
Campaign words aside, her prior positions and deeds while energy minister do not inspire confidence. Simon Bullock, of Friends of the Earth, said: “In these uncertain times, these are welcome comments that the UK remains strongly committed to tackling climate change. But bizarrely Ms Leadsom’s prescriptions do not mention energy efficiency, the cheapest action of all, nor does she mention the spiralling cost of Hinkley nuclear power station while onshore wind and solar are already cheaper [than nuclear power], and with costs still falling.”
Indeed, the year prior to her becoming energy minister, she wrote the following in her blog, “I completely welcome the announcement from the European Commission made recently regarding the possibility of ending all subsidies for winds farms.”
And yet, soon afterwards, a study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), concluded that wind power had become the cheapest electricity in both the UK and Germany, a first for any G7 economy. The study said this is because the rise of renewables, as well as technological advances in efficiency and power storage, which makes fossil fuel-generated energy more expensive. The cost of solar and wind power is only in the maintenance, power generation being essentially free. But fossil fuels and gas needs to be extracted. The costs of fracking, which Leadsom supported as energy minister, are particularly high.
Doug Parr, the chief scientist at Greenpeace, said: “Andrea Leadsom’s defence of the UK’s world-leading climate change act is welcome, all the more so since some of her own MP supporters are inveterate climate sceptics. But it’s deeds, not words, that count, and much of what Leadsom has done as energy minister has been to undermine the clean technologies we badly need to meet our climate commitments.”
More troubling than Leadsom’s appointment was the decision to scrap the Climate Change department. Merging the duties with a new ministry for Business, Energy And Industrial Strategy led by Greg Clark.
Former Secretary of Communities and Local Government, Clark was a Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate and has written papers on achieving a Low Carbon Economy.
The decision to shut DECC was also criticized by the The Institute For Public Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank as it risked “reversing ten years of progress on reducing the threat of global warming”.
Michael Jacobs, IPPR Acting Associate Director for Energy, Transport and Climate said: “If it is to be a success, its new focus on industrial strategy must be low-carbon. Greg Clark needs to move swiftly to reassure energy investors that there will be no change in the commitment to de-carbonization and that the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement will provide the policy framework to restart investment in vital low-carbon infrastructure.”
Following his appointment, Clark said: “I am thrilled to have been appointed to lead this new department charged with delivering a comprehensive industrial strategy, leading Government’s relationship with business, furthering our world-class science base, delivering affordable, clean energy and tackling climate change.”
He remarked that he was looking forward to “delivering affordable, clean energy and tackling climate change”, along with a comprehensive industrial strategy, adding that, “If you really intend climate change to drive an industrial transformation, why not embrace it within a powerful department that’s developing the sort of industrial strategy needed to forge a genuine Low Carbon economy?”
Clark’s words of reassurance suggest little deviation from the path already chosen by the Britain. In fact, the UK is already bound by its Climate Change Act to step-by-step cuts in greenhouse gases through to 2050. And, Leadsom has stated that there would be no deviation from this.
But why omit “Climate Change” from the name of the new department? May be at pains to demonstrate that she is taking her party to the right while shying away from Brexit. Most Brexiters have been anti-environment. Indeed, climate “scepticism” (more commonly known as delusional thinking) has been called the “other horn” on the Brexit goat. And, climate “sceptic” group Global Warming Policy Forum has long demanded the abolition of Department of Energy and Climate Change. This could be seen as a move to assuage the hard right in her party while bridging the international chasm created by Brexit.
Still, green groups are sounding the alarm:
“It sends a terrible signal at the worst possible time,” said James Thornton, chief executive of the ClientEarth legal group fighting the government to improve air quality standards.
“At a time when the challenge of climate change becomes ever more pressing, the government has scrapped the department devoted to tackling it.”
Green Party MEP Keith Taylor said the move “looks like an act of climate sabotage” while Friends of the Earth described it as “shocking”.
Former Labour leader, Ed Milliband, the first Secretary of Energy and Climate Change when the department was created under Gordon Brown’s leadership, called the move “just plain stupid.”
Confusing is perhaps a better word. Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK, the trade group for electricity generating companies, said his members would be as concerned the move may lead to a period of policy uncertainty.
“Companies are ready to deliver the billions of pounds of investment needed [to decarbonise the electricity system] but we need a clear policy framework to deliver it,” said Mr Slade.
OTHER PRETZEL APPOINTMENTS
The Liberal Democrats have denounced the decision to appoint Boris Johnson as foreign secretary – saying Theresa May has “lost credibility after 90 minutes as Prime Minister”.
The party, which has pledged to campaign on a platform of remaining in the EU at the next election, said the appointment showed Ms May was “not serious” about negotiating a deal with with Europe and the rest of the world.
There are other appointments drawing ire and fire from various quarters for their sheer ‘strangeness’. We’ve compiled the a list of the some of those courting controversy:
Priti Patel – International Development
The Brexit campaigner Priti Patel has been appointed the new Secretary of State for International Development.
In 2013 she proposed scrapping the Department, stating that the private sector should entirely take over foreign aid.
She said: “A long-term strategic assessment is required, including the consideration to replace DfID with a Department for International Trade and Development in order to enable the UK to focus on enhancing trade with the developing world and seek out new investment opportunities in the global race.
“It is possible to bring more prosperity to the developing world and enable greater wealth transfers to be made from the UK by fostering greater trade and private sector investment opportunities.”
Patel will have to rely on her finely honed skills as a Stepford politician in order to run the department, which if her will had been done, would not exist.
Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Hammond’s appointment is in this category not so much because of him – it’s more because his predecessor George Osborne was considered a heavyweight. Seems strange for a Remain supporter like May to be so punishing of a fellow campaigner – even if he was considered one of the key instigators of ‘Campaign Fear.’
As former shadow Chief Secretary, No 2 to Osborne in opposition, and an MP with pre-politics experience of the private sector, some of it even in manufacturing, he seems like a safe if uninspiring choice. That said, he made the wrong kind of headlines as he suggested Brexit could possibly take six or more years. It was hardly the kind of confidence-building measure to shore up the economy. Perhaps May will make his position a non-speaking one.
Apparently, he once worked for a company making medical equipment that was briefly chaired by author and longtime Thatcherite, Lord Jeffrey Archer. Hammond and the popular thriller writer didn’t get along.
Amber Rudd, Home Secretary
This is a key post, which had great continuity under May, which is why it is surprising that someone as inexperienced as Rudd, who became MP only six years ago was chosen to succeed May. In fact, May had been Home secretary about as long as Rudd has been an MP.
That said, Rudd does have a prominent stripper name, and was ‘Aristocracy Coordinator’ for the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, which in some circles is impressive. Now, she’ll be in-charge of counterterrorism, police forces, and immigration policies – a natural progression.
She joined the Cabinet only last year in the junior post of Energy and Climate Change Secretary. If her successor, Leadsom, who asked if climate change was real upon her appointment is any standard for the Conservative party, she must have been judged to have done a wonderful job in that didn’t make a mess of it! That said, she was also in support of fracking and not so positive on renewable energy. From Rudd to Leadsom: given whom Cameron had put in charge of portfolio, the logic behind May’s trashing of the whole Ministry is starting to become apparent.
Rudd made an impression in the referendum campaign as an aggressive Remainer who clashed with Johnson, saying he was the life and soul of the party but “you wouldn’t want him to drive you home.” But it was Rudd’s smackdown of Leadsom for being too inexperienced to be Prime Minister (and this, too as Rudd’s close colleague) that probably convinced May that she had the guts to handle the Home Ministry.
As for rides home, Rudd will likely be in a position to take her own limo home, now. Perhaps it will be a Bentley if she gets a cut of all that EU money that Johnson, Gove, Leadsom – and Patel (yes…Numbers Patel) say Britain will save after Brexit. Of course if GDP reduces by 1% as is likely to happen after Brexit, that money won’t actually exist. Still, nobody is saying Rudd shouldn’t enjoy her fictional Bentley while she can.
Liam Fox, International Trade
In keeping with the Monty Pythonesque appointment of Boris Johnson to Foreign Secretary, the appointment of Liam Fox completes the comedy.
Johnson has already said Fox’s Ministry will likely “borrow staff” from the Foreign Office. That’s probably because those functions actually resided in the Foreign Office in the first place – and those people will be doing the same job with a different name.
But Johnson relying on Fox for support on trade – that’s like a banker asking a criminal to copy the keys to his safe.
Why? Let’s remember that Fox was forced to resign in disgrace as Defence Secretary in 2011 because he had invited his old pal, Adam Werrity, a lobbyist, to international trips and private Ministry of Defence meetings even though he had no official role in Government and no security clearance. Werrity handed out business cards suggesting he was Fox’s adviser and went along to meetings with defence contractors and diplomats. It was a serious breach of security and a serious abuse of governmental power. That he wasn’t forced to resign as an MP surprised many, leaving many to wonder how he wormed his way back into Cabinet. Perhaps May that desperate to include Brexiters.
Still, it begs the question, does a disgraced minister have the moral authority to call out other nations when it comes to the ethics of international trade agreement compliance, corruption, and conflict of interest?
MAY’S BEST DECISION
While May be practicing good politics, getting those who orchestrated Britain’s break from Europe to pick up the pieces and try to put it together again, as David Cameron demonstrated by holding the referendum on Europe in the first place – good politicking doesn’t necessarily equal good governance. In fact, it almost certainly never does.
Criticisms of Johnson having his back to the wall aren’t that unfounded. All the Brexiters are now in that position. This is exactly why nobody is in a hurry to invoke Article 50. Campaign fear may not have won the referendum – but it persuaded even the Brexiters. They are just plain scared. And, with May refusing to hold out the possibility of a second referendum, her Leave Ministers have little room to maneuver. May has, thereby, upped the stakes considerably.
May’s best decision, perhaps, is doling out a healthy portion of poetic justice to former Justice Secretary Michael Gove. After all, the former Times journalist was guilty of double treachery, first betraying Cameron by getting into Johnson – and then rolling over Johnson while he was napping (as he is prone to do, apparently). As Parliamentary sketch writer Michael Deacon aptly put it, Gove “arrived to work in a ministerial limo, and left in a cab…He was later spotted in a book shop, buying a copy of Blood Wedding, a grim psychological thriller about a woman whose life falls apart and is suspected of murdering her boss. I could be wrong, but I’m not sure he’s taking this very well.”
Maybe that’s why May appointed Rudd as Home Secretary. She needs a young fit bodyguard to protect her from Gove.