John Major: This brilliant blast against Brexit will devastate May

PUBLISHED: 15:19 28 February 2018 | UPDATED: 12:04 04 March 2018

Sir John Major gives a speech on Brexit at Somerset House

Sir John Major gives a speech on Brexit at Somerset House

PA Wire/PA Images

The grey man's moment is now, writes MATT KELLY, and it could be pivotal

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How times change. John Major, the grey man of Conservatism, today gave an almighty blast against Brexit with more wit, punch and clarity than even the master of communication who followed him into Number 10, Tony Blair, has managed.

It was a long speech, but every line built towards a single sentence that encapsulated the entire sorry mess we have been living through in the last two years.

A sentence both philosophical and political, quite shocking in its implication: “It is as necessary to speak truth to the people as it is to speak truth to power.”

The government, Major said, was divided, deluded, and engaged in a deceit - that Brexit was anything other than a disaster for Britain.

Britain’s status is already diminished, he said, but would plunge further.

Our economy was being pulled up by short term factors, like the fall in the pound and the better performance of our neighbours.

But that would not last. And when the people discover the truth for themselves, there will be an almighty reckoning.

There was no mollification here. Not even the faint empathies Blair has articulated for the current occupier of 10 Downing Street.

This was a brutal assessment of a Tory government out of control and at war with itself.

A government who has put its own party interest ahead of the nation’s.

There can be no more serious charge for one Prime Minister to make against another.

Even Theresa May, a Prime Minister who seems utterly immune to what anybody actually thinks, must be stunned to hear John Major attack her and her government so openly.

The meat of his argument came towards the end.

MPs must be allowed a free vote on this matter; an opportunity to end Brexit, or for MPs to pave the way for for the people to end it - if that’s what the people wanted - via another referendum.

To force Brexit through on party lines would be a great abrogation of representative democracy, he said. And it would be unforgivable.

“If Brexit is whipped through Parliament ... voters will know who to blame,” he concluded.

This speech, from the grey man of the Conservatives, has the power and the substance to change the course of Brexit

As Britain slouches inexorably towards Brexit, the grey man’s hour has come around at last.

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