A change in the weather

13 August 2019

In One hundred days we pointed to “high” and “low” roads for the new government to follow to change the parliamentary arithmetic. This would be encouraging us with new possibilities, in particular trade deals; or animating us to surmount adversity, in particular EU obstruction. And all within a timetable governed by the close of the G7 on 26 August, the return of Parliament of 3 September and the conference season from 14 September to 2 October. In Gossip from the forest we boiled this down to three tests for the government in the run up to the G7, that is

-         thwarting Commons opposition by changing the weather on the streets;

-         cutting Ireland out of the herd's protection; and

-         getting an MOU out of Trump

Now to see how all this wisdom is working out.


Thwarting Commons opposition by changing the weather on the streets.
We may take an initial read from the Comres poll published today, with fieldwork at the end of last week, that is after announcements on NHS spend but before the emphasis on law and order of the last few days. The findings offer an oblique insight into the world as seen by Cummings and those around him, as they commission polls and focus groups daily. They confirm a small “Boris bounce” – the Tories up eight percent since 10 June and two percent since 19 July, but still well down on levels of support at the last election. There are, however, hints that recent events have encouraged Leavers in their resolve, while Remainers are beginning to flag: for example, Leavers disagree by net 44% that Parliament is more in tune than Boris (sic); while Remainers agree by just net 20%. Similar disparities apply to other questions testing the public mood. This is what a change in the weather would look like.

But so far, there is no evidence that the penny is dropping in Brussels, where officials await the outcome of a renewed Commons attempt to force an extension on the Government. It is impossible to rule this out, with the current on dit - flushed out by Cummings’ earlier provocations about timing - that the attempt will be made on 9 September.

Cutting Ireland out of the herd's protection.
Nothing has happened on this front, other than the customary huffing and puffing. But then again, I’m wondering how wrong it would be to see a straw in the wind from the white Times’ veteran Remainer, Daniel Finklestein in his column last week.

“The EU’s position — unless you guarantee there won’t be a border in Ireland after Brexit, we will, erm, install a border ourselves — is confusing to say the least.”

Getting an MOU out of Trump.
A semi-daily drip shows the issue breaking down on partisan lines, with Trump and his team (Pompeo, Bolton) talking up the prospect of a trade deal, noisily supported by the Republican majority in the Senate. On the other hand, Pelosi and the House Democratic majority are far less keen. However well Raab’s visit went last week, he will be alert to the UK’s need for bi-partisan accord with the US. And nope, there’s no paperwork so far.


Some things we can exclude; some not. To address some of the nonsenses in the air, the EU cannot extend the timetable unless the UK government agrees: a Parliamentary resolution is insufficient and the Speaker has no standing in the matter. A “letter-writing” Government of National Unity fails for lack of a leader - when last seen in person, Ken Clarke looked too frail for such responsibilities, however game. The Remainers’ cause has not been helped by Lucas’ proposal (quixotic? facetious? beats me) for an all-woman cabinet. On the other hand, the depth of support for Grieve’s WhatsApp group is an unplumbed mystery. No surprise on this score, as at this point he won’t know himself. If, however, Comres’ hints of a change in the weather are confirmed elsewhere, Grieve will find his support melting as snow in the spring. And that’s the “if” the government is working on.