Commentary by Derek Bateman
Let’s admit at the outset that Theresa May is right.
She doesn’t have an option except to block a referendum during the Brexit two-year process.
Why? Because her government is already in total chaos without an agreed plan, with (according to David Davis) no costings, ready to fall off the cliff and hope for the best. Her most experienced negotiator has resigned. She is hijacked by the extremist wing of her anti-EU party who are leading her into a decision that no moderate Tory is likely to support. She is unelected to the highest office. Her limited majority may shrink or disappear if prosecutions follow the guilty judgment on election fraud. Her closest ally is smarting in humiliation after being overruled on the Budget.
By declining to engage fully with parliament she has made Brexit her personal project. If it fails, so does she. She has exposed herself as an anti-democratic leader claiming a dictator’s mandate over the EU exit process while having none herself. Her characteristic dismissal of anything but insincere cooperation within the constituent parts of the union has led to revolt. Ireland, so constant a friend, is in a turmoil of fury and resentment. She is, in short, being overwhelmed by events. As she stands on the blazing battlements sending archers and spear men to the wall, behind her the Scottish savages are mounting a full-on attack on her flank. If I were her, I’d say the same: I can’t deal with this now.
In this she will be guided by her loyal lieutenants in the North – Davidson and Mundell whose combined contempt for a self-governing Scotland is limitless. She will have believed the polling evidence – and their advice – The Scots don’t want another vote so face them down. This, like the decision to hold the first referendum believing a three-to-one win inevitable, is wishful thinking.
The comedy count is mounting. Telling Scots they would be voting without knowing what for is a line straight from Yes Minister given the Brexit vote and the reservoir of ignorance in which she is marooned.To hear the dismal and weak Mundell say it’s no’ fair is pathetic. IT WAS IN THE MANIFESTO. Sturgeon won big time. She has requested engagement, produced a paper, more than May has done, and played a straight game. That it plays to her plan for May to stumble so lamely, is hardly a politician’s fault. You play the opponent before you. Is she complaining about only having Corbyn leading the opposition?
If she wanted to play the Iron Lady she should have said No. No referendum and left it at that. That’s what a rejection looks like. Instead she prevaricated – knowing she can’t escape for ever. Not being able to answer the inevitable When question looks what it is – weak. She is stalling but as she does so she shores up the idea of an unprincipled and frightened advocate at bay. She has handed the gift of grievance to the best grievance artists in the business.
And what an opportunity she now presents to the EU negotiators. Unelected, undemocratic, in denial, losing command of her country, clueless and in retreat.
Sturgeon need do nothing except hold her ground and appeal to Europe for moral and political support – she is now held hostage, a keen European, in the grip of anti-EU zealots whose denial of democracy would likely debar them from membership of the Brussels club were they applying today.
This is not the time to be precipitous. The cards have been played.When the shape of Brexit becomes clear is the time to demand action or to take it without their consent. By then there may be more than the SNP demanding action before the catastrophe which, after the Dutch election, looks like running against the new pro-European tide.