I had a stadia view from the gallery as I watched the wounds of my divided party painfully rupture on Wednesday afternoon during the Prime Minister’s statement on the EU deal. I found it painful to watch. Equally painful was the unbridled sycophancy of too many colleagues ever since – most of whom have spoken to me in private with entirely different views from the ones they express on television – and the very personal nature of their remarks: for all of Jacob Rees Mogg’s sins, career self-interest cannot possibly be one of them.
We must ruthlessly and impartially retain our credibility and honesty with the public at this critical stage. It does not take the brains of an Archbishop to work out that the deal as it is presented, does not match the many unyielding commitments from this administration over the last 18 months, about what would and would not be acceptable in the final agreement, particularly with regard to Northern Ireland. To pretend otherwise so dangerously diminishes trust in politics that it increases that threat of a Jeremy Corbyn Government.
The people who vote for us expect us to judge the agreement in a clear-eyed, professional manner, against our constituencies and our country, with integrity, whether we voted leave or remain. For trust in politics itself is at stake. If the PM came out and said “this is the best I can do” that would be another matter. But to claim this agreement lives within No.10’s self-imposed red lines, is dishonest, and we should not try and sell it as such. One thing I certainly won’t do is be bounced or influenced by colleagues, who 18 months ago told me after a self-aggrandising general election which threw away the first Conservative majority for 25 years, that blind loyalty was in the best interest of this Nation or our Party. That decision has very firmly led to the point we are now at – I learned my lesson last time, and 33 of our colleagues continue to today. The Country is the poorer for it, and Jeremy Corbyn has never been closer to power. Worth considering when bleating on about the National Interest..
Finally in these crucial days, it is not good enough to simply knock the deal. I would say this very firmly to those who campaigned for BREXIT: what is the vision? What is the alternative? How are my dockyard workers you convinced in Plymouth to vote for this in their thousands, how are their lives going to be demonstrably better, tangibly better in April next year? To fail to articulate that now would be fatal to many of us agnostics in the middle ground, aching for a return to capable and credible Governance of a modern Britain from a modern compassionate Conservative Party.