MATT KELLY: Theresa May is a disgrace to the office of prime minister

PUBLISHED: 11:27 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:32 17 January 2019

Theresa May sitting in the House of Commons after losing a vote on her Brexit plan. Photograph: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA Wire

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Theresa May sitting in the House of Commons after losing a vote on her Brexit plan. Photograph: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA Wire .

Press Association Images

MATT KELLY says that the country is facing an emergency - and the captain has lost the plot. Who will step up and state the obvious on Brexit?

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This newspaper has been campaigning for a second referendum for more than 18 months now. Long before it became fashionable.

In fact when we first said it was the only logical conclusion to the Brexit narrative we were roundly abused; either as cretins or traitors, or both.

Our entire reason for existence, and since we’re so achingly European let’s call it our raison d’être, is to see Brexit overturned.

But if a second referendum does happen, as now seems more likely 
than ever before, and if Brexit is
 stopped, there will be no triumphalism from us. No schadenfreude towards Brexiteers.

There will be no winners in Brexit. It’s just a question of how we can lose the least.

When people speak of Project Fear – when they say “look here… you lot said the sky would fall in. It hasn’t! You said the economy would collapse. It hasn’t” – they are being either foolish or disingenuous.

The sky has fallen in. Britain today is an international laughing stock. Our reputation for being an island of pragmatic principle is shredded. The notion that there is anything exceptional about being British has been exposed as the post-imperialistic arrogance it so clearly is.

Yes, we are a great nation. But we’re not so great that we can ride through three years of political carnage unscathed, reincarnating overnight as the great global powerhouse of trade and influence. The great deceit still to this day promulgated by the self-serving liars who sold us the vision.

The flip-flopping fluctuations of Michael Gove’s horse-backing is always an amusing distraction from matters of actual importance and relevance.

In April 2016 he told us this: “The day after we vote to leave, we hold all the cards.”

Now he says “winter is coming”. If he was a gambler, he’d one of those characters you see sitting on the pavement outside William Hill with an empty Costa coffee cup between his ankles.

This week is nothing more than the rational outcome of Theresa May’s effort to square the circle of Brexit.

The country was gamed, played for patsies by con artists who knew how to trigger enough sentiment to cast the European Union as the enemy of the people. When the real threat to our national prosperity was not over there, across the Channel, but here within our midst.

May has been roundly lauded for trying to bring Brexit home with such conviction and such indefatigable effort, despite the fact that she herself doesn’t believe in it. Such principle! Such sense of duty! Such work ethic!

There is a different take though.

Theresa May’s actions throughout this entire process represent the single biggest abrogation of responsibility in British political history.

No other prime minister in our history has deliberately set forth to make policy that they know will damage the country. Never.

Even the calamities of epic proportions in our recent history – the Suez Crisis under Anthony Eden, the appeasement of the Nazis under Neville Chamberlain, and even the calling of the referendum itself by David Cameron – didn’t set out to deliberately damage the nation.

They all thought they’d get away 
with it.

But Theresa May stands apart. A prime minister who has doggedly, relentlessly, stubbornly, irrepressibly pursued a policy of economic harm to the nation she leads. When she finally exits No.10, and her portrait is hung on that great staircase of British prime ministers throughout history, hers should be marked by a black ribbon.

Her cowardice in the face of extremists in her own party, her stupidity in setting out unachievable red lines, and her refusal to stand aside as soon as it became apparent she could not fulfil her mandate, all amount to her disgracing the office of prime minister. It is really quite shameless behaviour.

Perhaps her greatest lie, great because it is her last lie standing, is this: That she is seeing through the will of the people, that she has an unbendable duty to deliver what 17.4 million people voted for on June 23, 2016.

Put to one side reality for a moment (and why not? Everyone else has) and focus instead on what a real prime minister’s duty is. It is to lead. To navigate the vessel through whatever storm fate throws at it.

When an iceberg looms on the 
horizon, it’s not the captain’s job to get 
on with making sure the lifeboat propellers are greased up and in working order. It is to steer away from the bloody thing.

Yet if May was captain of the Titanic, she would charge that ship directly towards the iceberg, simply because that was the course charted out on the map before her.

On any ship in the ocean, a captain who continued to steer directly toward the iceberg would be relieved of duty and chained to the nearest radiator by the second-in-command. Which brings us to Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour, under this eurosceptic socialist idealist, have also failed in their duty.

Smugly, they have watched on, enjoying the unfolding disaster, plotting the best possible advantage they can take from it.

Corbyn’s demands for a general election, and the mealy-mouthed verbal concoction he contrives to keep Remainers hooked on the belief he will deliver a second referendum, is also a great duplicity.

A second referendum is the last thing he and his cultist coterie want. They believe it will let May off the hook and keep them from power. They see the disaster of Brexit as the golden opportunity to rush the gates of Downing Street.

They talk of “keeping all options on the table, including a second referendum” but if they were sincere in wanting a People’s Vote why not just say so? Make Labour policy this; a general election first, and if not a second referendum. No quibbling, no prevarication, no gamesmanship.

Corbyn has just as much obligation to be transparent as May. The country faces an emergency. It’s clear the captain has lost the plot. We need, more now than ever, someone with the courage to step up and state the obvious: That Brexit does not, cannot, will not work. It must be stopped.

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