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Sunday, September 02, 2018

The plot to replace May with Boris is underway

The Sunday Times reports that Theresa May is facing a fresh threat to her leadership from the man who ran her election campaign, who according to senior Tories is secretly masterminding a bid to destroy her Brexit plan and install Boris Johnson in Downing Street.

They say that Sir Lynton Crosby, the election guru who helped Johnson win two London mayoral elections, has ordered his allies to work with hard-line Brexiteers in the Commons to run a nationwide campaign against the prime minister’s Chequers plan:

One of Crosby’s senior staff at his firm CTF Partners is in close contact with the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexit hardliners run by Jacob Rees-Mogg and a campaign that is seen as a front for Johnson’s leadership ambitions. MPs plan to publish an alternative to May’s plan before the Tory party conference with the backing of both Johnson and David Davis, who resigned from the cabinet over Chequers.

The revelations come as The Sunday Times can reveal that May’s aides have had talks with civil servants about whether to call a general election if her Brexit deal is voted down by MPs. They have also discussed whether she should announce that she will stand down in the year after Brexit.

The revelation that the Tories’ top election strategist is trying to destroy May’s flagship policy will ignite a firestorm in Westminster. Crosby is understood to think that May’s plan — which will keep Britain in permanent close alignment with Brussels — would betray the voters who backed Brexit and hurt the Conservative Party at the next election. The Australian, known as the Wizard of Oz, is also said to be angry that May’s aides sought to blame him for the disastrous 2017 election campaign.

One of Crosby’s staff, David Canzini, is revitalising Change Britain, a pro-Brexit group, to campaign against the Chequers deal and give Johnson a personal platform. He is working closely with former Brexit minister Steve Baker and Stewart Jackson, formerly Davis’s aide. In recent days Canzini’s Twitter feed has featured messages attacking the Chequers deal and retweeting Brexiteers such as Baker, Jackson, Nigel Farage, Owen Paterson, John Redwood and Priti Patel.

A senior Tory said: “Lynton’s firm is working with the ERG to run this campaign to bring down Chequers. It looks like Lynton is hitting back after falling out over the election campaign and is trying to boot out the prime minister. They want to get Boris in.” One of those involved admitted that destroying Chequers would lead to May’s resignation: “If we stop Chequers, there is no way she’ll survive.” 

These revelations come after the Prime Minister ruled out a referendum on whatever Brexit deal she agrees with the EU. The Mirror says that May has been rattled by the success of the People’s Vote ­campaign to reverse Brexit but she has insisted that the 2016 referendum result must stand as the people have made their decision.

Rather bizarrely, she is quoted as saying that: “To ask the question all over again would be a gross betrayal of our ­democracy and a betrayal of that trust.”

Of course nobody is suggesting that what would be a third referendum on the EU, should be asking the same question all over again. The argument is that we need to decide whether the deal that May and her shambolic government comes up with meets the expectations generated by the leave campaign in the 2016 plebiscite. If not then people should have the opportunity to change their mind. How is putting a question to the popular vote a 'betrayal of our democracy'?

Nevertheless, the Prime Minister has painted herself into a corner. Her Chequer's compromise has alienated the Brexiteers, who now want rid of her and her plan, whilst at the same time failing to meet the demands of the EU.

Any chance she might get support from members of her party who want to stay in the EU or who might settle for a softer Brexit, has been scuppered over her intransigence on a confirmatory referendum.

Successful politicians win through because of their ability to build alliances, influence people through persuasion and take principled positions. On all three counts Theresa May is failing badly.
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