It’s likely to be another rough week for Boris Johnson.
Coming off a string of humiliations that found MPs seizing control of the agenda on the way to effectively stripping him of the ability to take the UK out of the EU without a deal on October 31, Johnson lost Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd on Saturday night.
“I have resigned from Cabinet and surrendered the Conservative Whip. I cannot stand by as good, loyal moderate Conservatives are expelled”, she said in a tweet, referencing Johnson’s Tory purge that included Winston Churchill’s grandson. Rudd included the letter she penned explaining her decision and it was a “blaze of glory”-type deal, that found her accusing Boris of “an assault on decency and democracy” and perpetrating “an act of political vandalism”. To wit:
It is with great sadness that I am resigning as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Minister for Women and Equalities.
It has been an honour to serve in a department that supports millions of people and can be such a force for good. I would like to pay tribute to the thousands of people who work for the DWP across the country. They are committed public servants and I am proud of the work that we have done together over the last 10 months to create a more compassionate welfare system.
I would also like to thank you and the Chancellor of the Exchequer for your support in the recent Spending Review. I am so pleased that you committed to spend millions more supporting the most vulnerable in society, and I hope that the Government will stay committed to going further at the next fiscal event, building on the work the department has done.
This has been a difficult decision. I joined your Cabinet in good faith; accepting that ‘no deal’ had to be on the table, because it was the means by which we would have the best chance of achieving a new deal to leave on October 31.
However, I no longer believe leaving with a deal is the Government’s main objective.
The Government is expending a lot of energy to prepare for ‘no deal’ but I have not seen the same level of intensity go into our talks with the European Union, who have asked us to present alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop.
The updates I have been grateful to receive from your office have not, regretfully, provided me with the reassurances I sought.
I must also address the assault on decency and democracy that took place last week when you sacked 21 talented, loyal One Nation Conservatives.
This short-sighted culling of my colleagues has stripped the party of broad-minded and dedicated Conservative MPs I cannot support this act of political vandalism.
Therefore, it is with regret that I am also surrendering the Conservative whip.
Britain’s body politic is under attack from both sides of the ideological debate. I will now play whatever role I can to help return it to a better place.
I have been lucky to have had extraordinary support from my Conservative Association since I was adopted as their candidate in 2006. Three times they helped elect me as their MP, keeping Labour at bay through nail-biting campaigns.
I remain a proud conservative and will continue to champion the values of fairness and compassion, and to support my constituents of Hastings and Rye.
On Sunday, she made the television rounds to explain further and one point she drove home pretty forcefully is that Johnson isn’t making a concerted effort to strike a deal with the EU, despite his protestations to the contrary.
“There is this huge machine preparing for no deal, which is fine, you might expect in the balance between getting a deal and no deal 50-50 in terms of work, but it’s not that”, she said.
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“It’s like 80-90% of government time going into preparing for no deal and the absence of time spent trying to get a deal is what has led 21 of my colleagues to rebel”, she added.
Phillip Hammond, who was expelled with the rest last week, painted a dour picture. “I’m afraid the Conservative Party has been taken over by unelected advisers and usurpers who are trying to turn it from a broad church into an extreme right-wing faction”, he said on Twitter.
(Welcome to America, Phillip. Can we introduce you to Stephen Miller?)
Johnson plans to forge ahead with another attempt to force an election on Monday, but the opposition has united against him, mostly because they don’t trust he’ll abide by the new law which compels him to request an extension if he doesn’t strike a deal. In blocking an election until Johnson actually sends a letter to the EU requesting a three-month Brexit delay, lawmakers can ensure there will be no “crash out” scenario, as it were.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Sunday that Johnson still intends to leave the EU on October 31.
“This is such a bad piece of legislation that we will want to test to the limit what it actually does require”, Raab told Sky of the law that prevents a no-deal exit without the backing of Parliament. “We will test what it legally requires and what it doesn’t require”, he added.
And that, right there, is precisely why MPs don’t trust Boris.
But don’t worry, Raab says Johnson is “of course not going to break the law”.