Morning Briefing: The real choice facing Conservative contenders
The future of a deeply divided country is at stake but the ten contenders for the Conservative Party leadership seem determined to ignore half the public and ram home their plans for Brexit without going back to the people. It’s not a way to win an election and it’s ultimately not sustainable…
No closure without going back to the people
The Conservative leadership contest is now officially underway, with ten candidates having last night secured the necessary eight signatures. Yesterday we saw the unedifying spectacle of a series of campaign launches in which candidates to succeed Theresa May, many of whom appear to be in an arms race to adopt the most hardline position on Brexit, put forward a series of implausible fantasy proposals for either renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement or forcing through a destructive No Deal. The front pages of today’s Times and Telegraph focus on personal jibes between the leading candidates, but the Guardian’s report on how appalled the EU is by the unrealistic promises being made by the candidates is perhaps the most telling.
Every one of the contenders is basing their campaign around pressing on with the very thing that is dividing the country and which every recent poll shows more oppose than support - Brexit. With the new Prime Minister certain to be without a majority and likely to face an election sooner rather than later, it is extraordinary that every candidate is, at present, setting their face against taking the issue back to the public in a People’s Vote.
More extraordinary still is that most of the candidates are defining themselves as supporters, to a greater or lesser extent, of a destructive No Deal that would leave us weaker internationally and open to bullying by the likes of Donald Trump, forced to trade on WTO rules - the worst in the world - and without a vital security deal to protect us from terrorism.
Extraordinary, and ultimately not sustainable.
With Brexit unresolved and with Farage still roaming around Tory England, a new Prime Minister will think twice about calling or precipitating a General Election that might yet result in a government led by Jeremy Corbyn. And if they force Brexit on us - especially a destructive No Deal - without going back to the people, they will go into any future election with the consequences hanging around their necks.
That is why, whatever they say now, the next leader of the Conservative Party, if they want to be anything other than a deeply divisive and short-lived Prime Minister, will have to look at how to end the gridlock in Westminster and legitimise whatever the eventual outcome of Brexit. And when they do that they will see their is only one solution: to let Parliament halt the slide into a No Deal Brexit and give the people a Final Say referendum
Brexit uncertainty hitting economy hard
With the three-ring Westminster political circus in full flow yesterday the grim economic news - that in April the economy shrank by 0.4% while manufacturing output fell by a full 4% - was barely noticed. Car production alone fell by a quarter. Much of the slump represented companies running down stocks built up in precaution against the prospect of a destructive No Deal at the end of March.
With the threat of No Deal now back on the table, and the cost of carrying huge inventories eating into investment, the short-term prospects for the economy remain gloomy. And any form of Brexit promises years, if not decades, of uncertainty and argument about future trade arrangements: meaning the longer-term outlook is equally poor unless we get resolution and closure. And only a People’s Vote offers that prospect.
Pressure mounts on Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn is under greater pressure than ever to finally adopt a clear approach to a People’s Vote after yesterday’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the first since the party slumped to third in the European Parliamentary elections, saw furious and despairing contributions from the floor demanding clarity.
Marie Rimmer, an MP previously seen as a Corbyn loyalist, made an impassioned plea for a change in approach.
Much attention was focused on a group of unelected advisors in and around Corbyn’s office, the so-called 3Ms of communications boss Seems Milne, chief of staff Karie Murphy and Unite chief Len McCluskey - believed to be the biggest barriers to Labour taking the decisive steps towards full-throated support for a People’s Vote. Others focused on the bullying recently directed against Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry after she made her support for a People’s Vote clear.
It's clear that Brexit must be put to the people. Now is a crucial time to get involved with the People's Vote campaign. Sign up to volunteer today.
Quote of the Day
“Support for a second referendum grows when it is pitted against No Deal. I believe the stark and unwelcome choice we will face under a new Prime Minister is No Deal or a second referendum, and at that point support of Conservative MPs grows even further. We are still at the stage where people are nervous of that option, because it is seen as a Lib Dem option, but the only thing that matters is how we pursue the national interest.”
Conservative MP Sam Gyimah who yesterday dropped out of the leadership contest.
Video of the Day
Another take on Lorraine Kelly's refusal to be drawn on former colleague, and would-be Prime Minister, Esther McVey.
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