The New European’s JONATHON READ takes a first look at Channel 4’s Tories At War documentary.
If you don’t laugh at the Tories At War you would probably cry. There were moments of amusement in Channel 4’s year long observation of the Conservative Party, but much of it will leave viewers in despair.
A week is a long time in politics – but it is unbelievable how much has changed in just one year.
At the start of the documentary Anna Soubry is still in the party, Theresa May is still leader, and the Brexit Party is not officially a thing. Sir Nicholas Soames is yet to be expelled and Nicky Morgan is refusing to support any leader that voted against Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.
But this fly-on-the-wall documentary, which interviews members of the ERG including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Andrew Bridgen as well as moderates like Alan Duncan and Ken Clarke, not only reveals the Conservatives deep distrust of each other but it also exposes just how slippery they can be too.
Throughout the hour long documentary we see Tory MPs believing that Theresa May’s deal will pass (until “Mark Francois sticks his fat face” in), Anna Soubry defecting, and Sir Nicholas Soames predicting Boris Johnson will never be prime minister.
It is only Andrew Bridgen (referred to as “Spud-u-hate”) who has the most accurate predictions, believing by the time the documentary will be broadcast Theresa May will no longer be leader, speaker John Bercow will be gone, and we will be facing a general election. But after all, the ERG has essentially led the Tory party for the twelve months, so it is little surprise they knew what might happen next.
What is particularly troubling about this documentary is not just the divisions, or the distrust of new leader Boris Johnson, but the lack of consistency from so many of the voices – even those viewed as the sensible ones. Sir Alan Duncan, the most veracious of critics of Johnson, claimed that we were watching the “slow death of the most successful party in democratic history”. Despite tendering his resignation hours before the new prime minister, by the end of the documentary he had conceded he must back Boris Johnson and the government to make a success of the limited options they have left.
Nicky Morgan, who expresses deep sadness at her friend Anna Soubry’s resignation from the party, claimed she could never support someone who did not back Theresa May’s deal. By the end of the programme she was explaining she must become a part of Johnson’s government to help influence his decisions.
It goes someway to demonstrating the slippery nature of many Tory MPs, who were criticised in the Commons for standing idly by while Boris Johnson expelled their colleagues and shut down parliament.
Dominic Cummings does not get a mention in the documentary, despite the widely-held view he has been the one pulling the strings at the top. But it does introduce Crispin Odey – one of Boris Johnson’s biggest financial backers.
Odey, theapro-Brexit backer, is reportedly said to have recently made a £300 million bet against British businesses and stands to make huge profits from the woes of the UK economy if Brexit goes ahead.
In the documentary he makes numerous appearances, much to the scorn of Gina Miller, who also makes a brief appearance. His view is that rather than trying to reason with the rebels Boris Johnson has to up the ante, pulling whatever tricks he can possibly make to take Britain out of the EU on October 31st, and to win the support of the public ahead of an election.
His appearance may bring more scrutiny about just how much involvement he has with Number 10, and who is pulling the strings in Downing Street.
But overall the documentary is a stark reminder of how the crisis facing Westminster has grown in just 12 months, and how the behaviour of the Conservative Party sparked this mess and continue to throw more fuel on to the fire.
While the Labour divisions this weekend are clear for all to see on the national news, I cannot help thinking the 10pm timeslot for this documentary means much of the general public will miss this in-depth insight.
It should be seen by every Brexiteer that blames Remain politicians for the chaos.
Tories At War airs on Channel 4 on Sunday night at 10pm.