Cabinet minister: ‘It is May’s inability to engage in the most basic human interactions that brought us here’

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BBC Newsnight’s political editor, Nicholas Watt, quoted a cabinet minister last night, providing perhaps the clearest insight yet into the Brexit mess. Here’s what Watt said:

In cabinet, I am picking up complete and utter dispair. I said to one cabinet minister “Why is the Prime Minister holding a vote when she is pretty sure she is going to lose?” and using very strong language, this cabinet minister said to me:

“Fuck knows. I’m past caring. It’s like the living dead in here.”

This cabinet minister then went on to say:

“Theresa May is the sole architect of this mess. It is her inability to engage in the most basic human interactions that brought us here. Cabinet has totally broken down. Ministers say their bit. She gives nothing away. One side thinks x will happen. The other side thinks y will happen, and the Prime Minister decides on z.”

* News Meerkat - keeping a look-out for Liberal Democrat news. Meerkat photo by Paul Walter

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  • Paul Barker 29th Mar '19 - 4:08pm

    Well thank god for that, with all those rumours I was getting worried.
    The simplest solution now would be to Revoke Article 50 but more likely is some combination of Soft Brexit, a long delay & A Peoples Vote.
    In 6 Months the nightmare could be over.

  • David Becket 29th Mar '19 - 4:13pm

    And if you read David Law’s book or listened to ex ministers at conference this could have been predicted on the day she was elected.

  • I think we all know how we got here, it’s what happens now that I’m really concerned about.

  • John Marriott 29th Mar '19 - 4:19pm

    @Paul Barker
    I agree entirely with your second recommendation. Now, how about that Party list for the EU Parliamentary Elections?

  • What a relief, I really thought the deal would be agreed. Now we need to pray that on Monday the Customs Union is agreed all subject to a Referendum Are we really getting there or will this stubborn seemingly obsessed with one thing Prime Minister just try somewthing again. Presumably the Speaker will not let her bring todays motion back, he will stop the previous motion as well, so a new one? Would not put it past her.There must be someone who has the strength of mind and character to stand up to her.

  • I think May MIGHT be a better politician than she is given credit for. All Tory Prime Ministers for the past 40 years have been brought down by Europe and haven’t been able to solve the problem.

    I am not sure that any other mainstream Tory would have handled it much differently. And it is always fashionable for pundits to say X is too whatever – whether true or not. And sometimes some of their negatives are flipsides of positives that they also possess. Look at Corbyn and the General Election.

    It is perhaps a lesson for political parties to have a contested leadership contest and not a coronation. If the Tories had, whoever would have won would have had more authority in the party for their version of Brexit , it would have introduced them to the wider public and it might have exposed their shortcomings – and clearly May has never really had to go out and sell her political vision and came up short when she tried to at the General Election.

    Having said all that clearly lacks any “schmoozing” or campaigning skills – and it has often backfired when she has tried it – the General Election, last week’s speech etc.

  • All that is now being said about her was long ago known. You only had to read police bloggers like “Inspector Gadget” to know her limitations, but you would never know that if you followed the main stream media who have spent the last few years acting as her cheer leaders. We are being badly let down by polticians and the fourth estate and yes that includes the television stations especially the BBC.

  • @John Marriott. The Lib Dems face the very real prospect of fighting it out for Sixth place in a European Election. Why would anybody want to go through this. Time to start real talks with TIG

  • The reality is parliament will most probably swing behind a customs deal and possibly combine it with common market 2.0.

    Teresa May will then probably try to get parliament to decide between this and her deal. My suspicion is at that point she will still lose.

    The question then becomes does she accept the or go to the country or try and put her deal to the country via a referendum?

  • David Becket 29th Mar '19 - 5:51pm

    @ Silvo
    It is not TIG anymore, it is Change UK led by a dynamic new face Heidi Allen. Unless we buck our ideas up a bit smartish we will be well down in sixth place with Change UK taking all the remain votes, and even some leavers who have got fed up with this rubbish. This rubbish includes our own habit of blaming others, just look at our boring press releases.

  • Paul Barker 29th Mar '19 - 6:10pm

    Clearly it would be crazy for us & Change to fight each other in The European Elections. I hope & presume that Talks are going on at a Senior Level to come to some sort of arrangement.
    Personally, I would like to see a full-blown Electoral Alliance between The LDs, Change & The Greens. The three of us are much closer to each other than any of us are to The Labour or Conservative Parties as they exist now.
    Obviously we all need to get our skates on.

  • Yeovil Yokel 29th Mar '19 - 7:30pm

    Tomorrow will be my birthday, and I shall wake up in a better mood than I expected to a few weeks ago. Mind you, we’re still in a deep, deep hole.

    If we hold EU parliamentary elections &/or a confirmatory referendum I shall experience profound schadenfreude as the Tories struggle to put together a credible manifesto/argument. Serves the b*****s right.

  • David Evershed 29th Mar '19 - 7:31pm

    How would an alliance between Lib Dems and ChangeUK work in European elections which are based on what is effectively a proportional representation system?

    It would have to be divided by region with say

    a) only Lib Dems in the South East and

    b) only Change UK in London


  • John Chandler 29th Mar '19 - 8:14pm

    I can’t see TIG/CUK splitting the pro-EU vote in the European elections. PR means we don’t need to make any pacts to get around limitations with FPTP. Lib Dems, CUK, Greens, SNP, etc. all reach out to different types of Remainers. If we’re trying to ensure a strong, pro-EU representation for the UK, that strikes me as the best way to go. The main thing is ensuring we collectively target the pro-Brexit parties and avoid scrapping with each other.

  • John Chandler, yes the three parties will split the remain vote, and probably mean all three will fail to beat the threashold and end up with no MEPs.
    David Evershed, no a single list with candidates from all three parties on it would be the way to go, to try to get support. The electorate are not sheep to be told which party to vote for by us. At the moment the public might even like the idea of several political parties working together,in harmony!
    The way to win seats in a PR List system can be seen in other countries which use it for their own national elections.

  • The PM will be back next with another wizz. Euro elections premature?

  • On European Parliamentary elections and pacts

    Especially with three parties it would be virtually impossible to come to an agreement on how to order the lists – and even with two. Alternately but the joint ticket could pick up 3 in one region and only one or zero in another.

    There are also likely to be two Leave parties – UKIP and Farage’s new Brexit party.

    Under electoral commission rules it is impossible to have a joint description covering three parties and if it covers two parties then it would have to be registered PDQ (and we might have to change our party rules).

    It is very difficult to say whether it would be beneficial in terms of MEPs elected – there tends to be a “mad scramble” for the last seat.

    And of course some Greens and Lib Dems will vote for those parties as their “traditional” party and even if they were to maintain that to a joint ticket (and some wouldn’t) they might have difficulty finding us on the ballot paper.

    In general TIG/CUK have been taking vote pretty evenly from all parties – if anything more from Labour than us which might benefit us. Their polling has been all over the shop. And I have been less than impressed with the progress they have made – no new MP defections and none likely (with the imminent Tory leadership election and Tom Watson’s initiative to calm things down in the Labour party) – even the launch of their party today will be noticed by virtually no-one. As of now I think they will struggle to get much above 5% but it is difficult to say.

    In contrast in a little noticed Opinium poll we were getting 3% more in European elections than for Westminster. And some polls – Yougov and BMG putting us on 11% or 12% for Westminster that would indicate around 14% – obviously TIG/CUK may cut that but not necessarily detrimentally as regards number of MEPs elected. In 2009 on 13.3% we got 11 seats and at least one MEP in each GB region (except Wales I believe) against 1 in total in 2014 on 6.9%.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Mar '19 - 11:10pm

    On News-night George Freeman MP wants a powerful cross-party cabinet and wants our former health minister. Rory Stewart MP is saying that the public have as many different policies as parliament, probably nine. John Curtice said that public opinion is fragmented.
    Perhaps this will persuade some of those who felt able to tell us all what the 33 million voters in 2016 thought. Among such spin doctors is the current PM.
    Parliament must decide what it wants and insist that the PM does what she is instructed to do, or be found to be, again, in contempt of parliament.

  • OnceALibDem 30th Mar '19 - 1:00am

    Just have Euro elections, General Election and Referendum all on the same day?

  • Yeovil Yokel 30th Mar '19 - 7:16am

    Dominic Grieve lost a vote of no confidence by his Beaconsfield constituency Conservative Party last night, which could pave the way to his deselection. Could he be the next defector to the TIG / ChangeUK – or even to the LD’s? Do we yet have a PPC in place for Beaconsfield? At the June 2017 GE he achieved a healthy majority of 24,543, and he appears to be a person of considerable intellect & integrity who surely would be an asset to either party.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Mar '19 - 7:48am

    We should fight any European Parliamentary election as a LIBERAL party, rather than simply as a pro-EU party. Remain or Leave is a domestic issue, whlle MEPs legislate for the EU as a whole. Therefore, we need to campaign not just for the EU, but for our specifically liberal vision of the EU, invoking our ALDE sister parties and contrasting us with our poilitical opponents (in particular the Tories with their very right-wing allies in ECR such as Poland’s misnamed “Law & Justice” Party).
    Using the European Parliamentary election as a proxy for the domestic Remain or Leave, In or Out debate would simply pay into Farage’s hands, as it did in 2014. Our main enemies are not his new or old party, but the Tories.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 30th Mar '19 - 7:55am

    Ruth Bright, what’s wrong with “atypical”?
    We are supposed to be a party that believes that no-one should be enslaved by conformity”.
    It seems that Theresa May is a bit shy and awkward in social situations. Are you suggesting that it would be better if politicians were all gregarious extroverts?

  • It is tempting to say May is “atypical”, but she isn’t she is actually a typical successful poltician. Let that sink in, she is a successful poltician, she is the best the Tories could find, in fact she is the best the country could find. If that isn’t a damming indictment of our failing political system I don’t know what is. Frighteningly of cause her replacement is likely to be worse, they may even knock “Call me Dave” of the podium of worst PM since God knows when.

  • David Becket 30th Mar '19 - 9:16am

    Our EU campaign must be centred on making Europe a leader in fighting climate change.
    It will not be easy, we have to change attitudes and lifestyle. We must ensure Polish miners are not out on the scrap heap, like ours were.

  • Arnold Kiel 30th Mar '19 - 3:34pm

    I am anything but a May-fan, but I would spare her for a while. In case of remain and/or a GE she would anyhow be gone. Likewise, no government would survive no-deal for more than a few weeks. In case of prolongation, nothing would happen until the new European Commission and Parliament have been elected and bedded in. In the People’s Vote-campaign, I would love her leading the leave-camp, or at least as a visible symbol of the impossibility of Brexit.

  • 90% of such political punditry and 99% at the moment about May is. The political pundits will say X is clearly the case until Y actually proves to be the case in which case they reverse their opinions instantly – often satirised in Private Eye’s apologies: “when we said X, we actually meant Y”

    May has suffered from two things. Firstly a conclusion has to be reached on Brexit one way or another unlike most issues when if you can’t get it through Parliament you can quietly drop it.

    Secondly successors that inherit without a General Election don’t fair well – mainly because the political capital of that political party has been used up and the opposition gets their act together. Douglas-Home, Callaghan and Brown all didn’t last very long. Arguably Major was the most successful and actually May is probably the second most successful – in that she (just about) won an election in her own right.

    That doesn’t mean that she hasn’t made mistakes – she very clearly has. Particularly the election manifesto and not negotiating a Brexit that the DUP could sign up to – but it is easy to be wise after the event!

  • I should have added at the end of my first sentence … is tosh!

  • I was outed for this. I was fired for this. I was right all along. They cheated to win the referendum. They broke the law to drive this country into chaos. They slandered me, shamed me, the BBC let them, politicians let them. Do you believe me now?

  • The prime minister was a normal person once, but like all Brexiters her brain has been taken over. Unlimited dark money means you can take over a lot of people’s brains and replace the normal functioning by Brexit sludge.

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