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Samizdata quote of the day

First, Brexit means Brexit. The campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high, and the public gave their verdict. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the backdoor, and no second referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union, and it is the duty of the government and Parliament to make sure we do just that.

Theresa May

May is currently the front-runner to be the next Prime Minister.

40 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • That is good. Pity May is such a fuckwit otherwise. She is economically a by-the-numbers mainstreamer, so expect budget busting spending. And she is a civil liberties nightmare.

    But Boris is now out, so the field is open. Love to know what behind the scenes knife work went on there 😀

  • Henry Kaye

    Note not what they say – just wait and see what they do.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Boris is out. As Perry said, I wonder why. Maybe the press/others have some dirt on him they were planning to run if he did.

  • Alisa

    Speculating here, but if I was Boris, I’d wait this one out, and let the consequences of Brexit (good or bad, real or imaginary) blow over. He can always claim the credit for the good ones later on, while the bad ones can always be blamed on whoever will be the PM this time round.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    Henry Kaye: Do you seriously mean that we should NOT note what Theresa May just said? This, if taken literally, is cynicism taken to the point of self-inflicted brain damage.

    What politicians promise DOES influence what they subsequently do. It doesn’t determine it (which I take to be your point) but it does influence it. It is thus very much worth noting. Not least because if not noted by anyone, pronouncements like this would count for far less. Words do matter, very much. They shape actions. If this were not so, Samizdata itself (to say nothing of all its comments) would be an absurdity.

    Personally, I do believe that May at the very least does now mean this. If only because it would be so foolish to say such a thing without meaning it.

  • Cal

    >I wonder why

    According to media reports Boris’ organization had become a shambles, and there were serious concerns that he was backsliding on full Brexit. Plus he was struggling to get enough MPs to support him (he’s never been that popular amongst his fellow MPs, they know what he’s like). And it looked like he wasn’t going to win the members over either.

    But I’d say the backsliding concern was the main thing for Gove, and I think he had no choice but to withdraw his support for Boris. After all, this is all about leaving the EU, not about Johnson’s personal ambitions. If he can’t be trusted to deliver then why support him?

  • I agree Brian, if someone like Theresa May just comes out and says that, with a lack of weasel words that is so stark, then I think we can say Brexit is a done deal and it is all over bar the shouting (of which there will be a great deal).

  • Cal

    >Do you seriously mean that we should NOT note what Theresa May just said?

    I think we certainly take it that she is telling the truth on ending ‘austerity’!

  • Lee Moore

    It’s most encouraging that May has said this. But in order to make sure it happens, the next Cabinet needs to have a majority of committed Leavers. If Gove or Leadsom or Fox* wins that’ll happen. If May wins I doubt it. However, the fact that she’s said it indicates that she understands the key party political point. If we’re still in the EU at the time of the next General Election, the Tories are toast.

    * please not Fox. He’s fine politically, but too much tabloid fodder.

  • But I’d say the backsliding concern was the main thing for Gove, and I think he had no choice but to withdraw his support for Boris. After all, this is all about leaving the EU, not about Johnson’s personal ambitions. If he can’t be trusted to deliver then why support him?

    Yes, you might well be spot on with that analysis. Gove suddenly ditching him was very revealing and strongly indicative of your theory.

  • Cal

    The significance of Gove’s wife’s leaked e-mail, which yesterday didn’t seem that big a deal, now seems greater.

  • bob sykes

    In as much as the leave party is only a small fraction of Parliament, essentially a fringe group, how does someone like May become Prime Minister? How does the process of leaving actually start, given the elected politicians you have?

  • Lee Moore

    Well, bob, notwithstanding some desperate stuff from lefty lawyers in the newspapers, claiming that nothing can be done without a new Act of Parliament, which a pro-Remain Commons majority could block, the simple answer is that the Prime Minister calls a Cabinet meeting, they decide to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, a letter gets sent to our European “partners”, and two years later, we’re out. Of course there’s lots of tidying up, and laws will need to be passed too or else it’ll get untidy.

    But the choice of Prime Minister (and Tory Party leader) is critical.

    1. The PM picks the Cabinet, so a backsliding PM could pick a pro-Remain Cabinet, which could decide not to invoke Article 50 without calling a vote in the Commons. Then having lost the vote they could say, sorry not our fault. Whereas a pro Leave Cabinet could just go ahead with Article 50 and then just present the Commons with a their plans for post Brexit Britain. If the Commons rejected the plan, that wouldn’t stop us leaving.

    2. The Tory Party Leader controls / has great influence over who can stand as a Conservative candidate and Cameron was planning a cull of enemies (inc lots of Leavers.) A Leaver PM can put a stop to that.

  • Cal

    True, Lee. I’m pretty confident now that May will not backslide on on the basics of Brexit, but it won’t be a great cabinet. Forget about any ideas of seeing Davis, Redwood, Fox, Rees-Mogg, etc. in her cabinet. (To be honest, I don’t think we’ll be seeing many of them in anyone’s cabinet.) A lot of Cameroons will be given a lifeline.

    It will be critical where she places Gove if she becomes PM. There has been great enmity between her camp and his for years now. Don’t know how Leadsom will do under her, but if she’s looking to promote women (which I think she is) then given the lack of female talent around (and I don’t suppose she’s too fond of Priti Patel) then Leadsom might be in with a shot at something big.

    But it’s not like I know that much about the ins and outs of Conservative Party politics.

  • Thailover

    Brian said,

    “Henry Kaye: Do you seriously mean that we should NOT note what Theresa May just said? This, if taken literally, is cynicism taken to the point of self-inflicted brain damage.”

    A stopped clock is correct twice a day. Stating something correct doesn’t mean that she isn’t, as Perry said, “fuckwit otherwise”.

    And there’s an American term regarding Henry’s obseration: Talk is cheap.

  • bob sykes

    Dear Lee, I actually know that stuff. I don’t see how a pro-leave MP can get to the PM’s seat.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)


    I did not say that May is not a “fuckwit otherwise”. I’m sure she is just that, although polite old me might want to be a bit more polite. But for me (and I think also for Perry de Havilland) the “otherwise” stuff does not now matter nearly as much as the overriding matter of getting Britain out of the EU, asap. Once that is accomplished, it will become a lot easier to argue that Britain should be a lot more like Hong Kong, because we won’t have the damn EU stopping the discussion before it even starts.

    As for talk being cheap: If it’s so cheap, why do you do it so much? Seriously, I am constantly baffled by people who do almost nothing in public besides expressing their opinions, including the opinion that opinions unaccompanied by relevant actions (which is the story of my life) are of no independent importance. What people say, even what people like you and me say, counts for something. And what people like Theresa May say counts for quite a lot.

    As for this “Brexit means Brexit” statement, she didn’t just say it. She said it, as Perry pointed out, with no weasel words. And, she said it on video, in the age of YouTube. She may imagine, just as you seem to, that she can walk away from what she said without consequences. If she does imagine this, well, she is imagining it. It ain’t true. I agree that her saying this doesn’t absolutely guarantee that Britain will leave the EU any time soon. But it definitely does make it that much more likely. (To be clear: it already is very likely. Her saying this makes it even more likely.)

    But I agree, not totally inevitable. Like you, I will only 100% believe this when it has happened.

  • llamas

    In my limited experience of the political species, most of them will say or do just-about anything to achieve or hang onto the next step up the greasy pole. And what they say today, may be discarded tomorrow. And usually is.

    ‘Read my lips. No new taxes.’

    ‘I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.’

    ‘If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.’

    ‘We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT.’

    And so on. This is the very life-blood of contemporary politics, and nobody at that level has made it that far without the ability to change direction on a dime, dismiss any and all past ‘promises’ and chart a completely different policy, without apology, regret or even acknowledging that they ever made any prior commitment of any sort. Reasons and excuses always can and will be found, as required by whichever way the political wind blows – today.

    https://www.(enter the Tube of You here).com/watch?v=4pmBC_CrQS4

    Seeing the manoeuvering of the last few days post-Brexit, I am steadily losing confidence that what the voters voted for will actually come to pass, and I certainly wouldn’t believe anything that any politician promises to do, no matter how unequivocally they promise it. I strongly suspect that a way will be found to avoid doing, what the electorate has said it wants done, or to delay, redefine or dissemble to the point that the status quo remain largely unaltered.

    They lie to and mislead the voters about everything else, it would be foolish to suppose that this will be any different. When the majority of the political ‘elites’, regardless of party, are so violently opposed to Brexit, they will find a way to foil it.



  • Nemo

    Ever the optimist, I read the quote and thought ‘Great: that means she give her unequivocal support to the next Prime Minister when they invoke Article 50.’

  • What llamas said.

    Luckily I live in a labour safe seat so I can happily not vote conservative

  • Stonyground

    I think that it is a sad reflection on our current crop of politicians that this statement had to be made at all. If any of them had any integrity at all, everything in that statement would be a given.

  • Mr Ecks

    Given her general level of intelligence ie very low, no possibility can be overlooked.

    She is another in the middle/upper class CM Camoron mould and should not be trusted. She picked Remain to serve her own ambitions because she thought would win and is making Article 50 noises now for the same reason. She is the only thing she cares about.

    Gove would be the far better choice. Not in a better world but out of what is there.

  • shlomo maistre

    Theresa May should not be trusted.

    Despite significant leakage of Tory voters to UKIP in recent years, 57% of Conservatives voted for Leave. The next Tory leader MUST have campaigned for Leave.

    And Theresa May’s words mean nothing.

  • Paul Marks

    Well Saul became Paul on the Road to Damascus.

    Perhaps Mrs May is now a dedicated supporter of British independence.

    Perhaps Mrs May is also now a dedicated supporter of Civil Liberties.

    But I will take some convincing.

  • PeterT

    It has to be Gove. Leadsom is a long shot to put it mildly.

  • And Theresa May’s words mean nothing

    No they do not mean nothing, but I agree she should not be trusted, and the next Tory leaders should indeed be a LEAVE supporter.

  • Henry Kaye

    It would seem that there are a few voices out there that share my suspicions of our political leaders!

  • Lee Moore

    bob : I don’t see how a pro-leave MP can get to the PM’s seat.

    It’s easy enough. The choice is made by the party membership who are considerably more Leave than the MPs. To get to the party membership ballot a Leave MP has to come in the top two MP picks, and thus requires one third plus one of MP votes. Though strictly you only need more votes than the third place candidate so Ms A 46% Mr B 29% Mr C 25% would get Mr B into the members ballot. I’d be astonished if the final two left standing were May and Crabb.

    As for the members, who can say ? I suspect Gove’d do better than Boris would have, but whether that’s good enough to beat Mrs Nasty Party, dunno. I suspect Gove’s strong point will be to be able to say “now we’ve decided on out, as we’re all agreed now, I think despite Theresa’s enormously fine qualities, it would be best to have someone who has a strong positive vision for Britain outside the EU. It would just be so much harder for someone who felt that the arguments, on balance, favoured remaining in. But if Theresa wins then I will eagerly support her and join her in unifying the party and generating more truth, brotherhood and apple pie. PS, by the way Tory members, I used to be a journalist and I know the BBC needs to be spit roasted.”

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    I’m sure there’s more potential in the name May for comedy than Cameron or Johnson! You could remake old shows as light porn- ‘The darling buds of (Theresa) May’. For comedy alone, she should get the job!

  • Roue le Jour

    I don’t understand why people think that politicians might wriggle out of Brexit. The club of countries hogwash is for the rubes, what the EU wants is grovelling obedience, and it isn’t going to get that from a member with its own currency, a credible military and a population with no sympathy for socialist grand projets. Logically they would want us out, and indeed that is what they have said, clearly and repeatedly. It was even suggested they if the UK delayed invoking article 50, they would kick us out.

    May will unite the country. Everyone, Tory and Labour alike, will hate her.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Stonyground has it absolutely right. The very fact that May has to spell it out shows you how things have gone.

    Gove would be a good choice in some respects; I think a Leave supporter should get the job, but his knifing of two colleagues – a sitting PM and a colleague with whom he campaigned and who did a lot of the lifting on Leave – will obviously put a lot of folk off, however irrationally (politics is a horrible business, and the Tories are good at the horribleness). The person who wields the knife seldom wins the crown, etc……

    I suspect it will be May. She’ll have issues of her own, not least the “Nasty Party” stuff that the MSM will recycle over and over, and her record on civil liberties as HS hasn’t been stellar. She will be reassuring to that large chunk of Middle England that, so we are told, needs reassuring, and the markets will probably like her. And in any event, she will not be there forever.

    And Boris can lick his wounds, build alliances, and wait. And make discreet mischief.

  • Rich Rostrom

    The problem with May (ISTM) is that as PM she will be in charge of doing something she thinks should not be done. True, orders is orders, and she has stated she will follow what the British people have ordered. But it will create a conflict for her: between her sense of duty to follow orders and her sense of duty to do the best for the British people.

    It would be better if the PM was a Leaver.


    @Johnathan Pearce:

    Politics is a horrible business, and the Tories are good at the horribleness.


  • Lee Moore

    I agree entirely with Rich Rostrom. When you abandon one military strategy and adopt a new one, you don’t usually appoint a general to lead your army, who opposed the new plan. Likewise if you decide that your business strategy is failing and you adopt a new one, you don’t appoint a CEO who favoured the old strategy. It’s not a question of doubting the honesty, diligence or competence of the reluctantly willing general or CEO, it’s simply that it’s easier to pursue a strategy you agree with. Which is not at all to say that you want your whole Cabinet filled with Yes-men – sceptics are very useful for kicking the tyres. But General Reluctantly-Willing really has to be several notches higher than General Yeah-I-Wanna-Go-There competence-wise to be worth putting in charge.

    Has Theresa May given any indication that she appreciates the economic case for leaving the EU ? If you don’t deregulate, you may as well have stayed in. Does anyone see her leading a deregulatory charge ?

    While I’m at it, may I suggest a policy proposal to each of the candidates, which could not possibly be politically unpopular, is really easy to do, and which has stupendously useful deregulatory effects ? And which could be enacted now, to take effect the morning after we leave the EU ? And for political optics purposes it shows clearly something we can do OUT that we’re not allowed to do IN.

    Increase the VAT registration threshold to a million quid. If that doesn’t win a few votes among Tory members, I’d be surprised.

  • shlomo maistre

    I don’t understand why people think that politicians might wriggle out of Brexit. The club of countries hogwash is for the rubes, what the EU wants is grovelling obedience, and it isn’t going to get that from a member with its own currency, a credible military and a population with no sympathy for socialist grand projects.

    This must be sarcasm. Like mostly every other people on earth the British have substantial sympathy for socialist grand projects. The NHS appears to literally be a golden calf for the Brits. And I can think of sundry reasons why politicians might wriggle out of Brexit. Indeed, I increasingly am of the view that Article 50 will not be activated or, if it is, then the negotiations in the following two years will produce a deal whereby the EU gets much of what it wanted out of the UK being a member of the EU anyway.

  • Lee Moore

    I share your concerns shlomo, except….

    We had to wait 40 years to be allowed a vote to get OUT. It was granted pretty much by accident. The referendum was heavily rigged propaganda-wise, money-wise, every-which-way-wise and the OUTs managed to overcome the huge burden of the status quo, and won. Despite a heavy Commons majority for IN. If the INs had won, we could easily have had to wait another 40 years for another shot at it. We are immeasurably better off now than we were ten days ago.

    Sure once we’re OUT, all sorts of seedy deals might be done with the EU. But they’re all undoable by the normal processes of politics. Not once every forty years long shots.

  • Roue le Jour

    shlomo maistre
    No, it isn’t sarcasm. I was referring to grand continent spanning socialist projects like national and international socialism, not a (relatively) petit grand projet like the NHS.

    The point I was making is that to wriggle out of Brexit requires that the EU wants Brexit to be wriggled out of. I see no evidence that that is the case. What they have actually said is if you’re going, go, and good riddance. Several times. So, what’s to negotiate?

  • Cal

    >Gove would be a good choice in some respects; I think a Leave supporter should get the job, but his knifing of two colleagues – a sitting PM

    I can see why some think he knifed Boris, although personally I think Boris’s dithering simply made it impossible for Gove or any other serious Leaver to support him (and it wasn’t like he was very popular with many other Tory MPs). But how did he knife Cameron? Don’t get that. The referendum was a free vote issue. Just because Gove was in cabinet didn’t mean he had to be Remain. He went for Leave because of principle. Nobody’s saying he did it for careerist reasons, as they did with Boris. He was open about it, and didn’t engage in anything underhand. He didn’t attack Cameron, or make any coments about Cameron’s competency. Yet Cameron and the Remain team engaged in the most appalling slurs towards the Leavers. Despite that, Gove still didn’t want Cameron gone even when he’d won the referendum. If you ask me, Gove did nothing to Cameron. Cameron tried to push Gove off a cliff, missed, and fell off himself instead.

    The media complain about the Eton boys arrogantly assuming power, but they go along with it. So we get these soap-opera fables about the powerful but kindly Cameron, who takes the little scrawny middle-class orphan boy, Gove, under his wing, and that little boy becomes a traitor who turns on Cameron. Boris is the other annointed one who was supposed to be PM and now Gove has ruined that for him as well (and ruined it for the media who would have been in for entertaining headlines for years with Boris). Piss off. I have no more interest in Boris’s own desire to be PM than any other MP’s desire. Frankly, I don’t like any of them. What I want is whoever is best suited, the best of a bad lot, to take on this job and to screw it up less badly than the other candidates would. It wouldn’t have been hard for Boris to have been that man, but he fumbled and dropped the ball just before the touchline.

    Cameron and Johnson are both personal glory boys, who came unstuck through their arrogance and their bad decision-making. They let us down. Nothing to do with Gove.

  • Andrew Duffin

    @Roue: “What they have actually said is if you’re going, go, and good riddance”

    But we’re not going until Article 50 is invoked. At the present moment, despite all the heat and light, nothing has changed, legally. Nothing at all.

    Welcome though Theresa May’s statement is, she’s not the leader and may never be the leader. Plus, what everyone else has said about the duplicitousness of all politicians.

    Several constitutional experts are saying the Article 50 can be invoked only by Parliament (NB for non-Brits, this is NOT the same thing as the government), and the current (or any other) Parliament certainly won’t do so on a free vote. It’s possibly this stumbling block that Johnson was referring to yesterday in his withdrawal speech.

    So the fat lady is still waiting in the wings; in fact I am rather afraid she’s still very much in the dressing-room, and the great Stage Manager of history hasn’t called her yet.

  • Johnnydub

    Cal – spot on.

    May would be awful – her and Cameron’s lies and failures over immigration I think at what tipped the vote over the 50%. I voted leave for the reasons of democratic accountability etc.. but immigration got the Labour heartlands out…

  • Mr Ed

    In most recent political ‘beauty contests’, ugliness triumphs.