Boris Johnson has caused a stir at the Conservative Party Conference – though I suspect there would have been an equal amount of drama if he hadn’t even turned up.
Multiple Brexit events and breakout sessions at the conference have been left with standing room only and queues out the door, while May and her governmental colleagues put on a brave face and told the crowds that everything is just fine.
Johnson ripped into the Chequers plan during his speech at the conference today, pleading with the Tory government to implement a new plan based on “one nation” Conservative values. He said that the only winners from a Chequers-style deal with the European Union would be the far right and far left of politics – suggesting that getting Brexit wrong would unleash the extremes of politics into the mainstream.
Of course, we know he’s talking about us when he says that. He thinks that anyone who dares to talk about our traditional culture and values, and who wants to dramatically change our immigration policy, is far right. That’s the standard Tory position – but, he’s also kind of right.
If Brexit isn’t delivered, then it will fuel the extremes of politics. The working class Brits who were ignored for decades will have been ignored again, and I don’t doubt that it will result in some people lurching to the real far right. It’ll also empower the far left under Corbyn.
“If we get it wrong, if we bottle Brexit now, believe me, the people of this country will find it hard to forgive…If we get it wrong, if we proceed with this undemocratic solution, if we remain half in, half out, we will protract this toxic tedious business that is frankly so off-putting to sensible middle-of-the-road people who want us to get on with their priorities.”
It certainly didn’t go down well with Mrs. May. In an interview with the BBC, May reminded the British public that Boris originally signed up to the Chequers plan before resigning. When told that Boris is directly challenging her authority, she simply stated that her government is putting the national interest first, both in what they do on Brexit but also on their domestic agenda. Nice pivot, Mrs. May.
But she couldn’t escape the questions, and admitted:
“There are one or two things that Boris said that I am cross about.”
She also said Boris was trying to tear up her guarantee to Northern Ireland, which isn’t exactly true.
Don’t underestimate how serious this is. In the last few days, Boris has staged a photograph of himself running through a field of wheat, mocking Theresa May’s response to a question about the naughtiest thing she ever did. Today, he completely tore apart the Chequers deal and riled up Tory party activists and members.
He’s staging a rebellion, and it could work…presuming he can get the party behind him.
Mrs. May needs her party and Parliament behind her to get Chequers passed. It’s unlikely that Labour will vote it through Parliament, her own party is turning to Boris, and now even the DUP is threatening to topple May’s government by withdrawing the votes supplied to the Tories on their Confidence and Supply deal.
It’s hard to believe that the Tories would vote to put Boris on a final leadership ballot put to the members, but it’s harder to believe at this point that the Tories are united enough to vote for the Chequers deal.