We have had the best part of three years to negotiate our departure from the EU and I find it hard to imagine how a further six months will make much of a difference. It will of course, cost us an enormous amount of money, including £100 million pounds to run the EU elections. But unless something significant changes we will find ourselves in exactly the same position on Halloween as we are today.
So what might change? First and foremost, we now urgently need a new Leader. I am a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative loyalist and have never publicly called for the removal of any of my previous leaders – all eight of them! Indeed, I remember being told that I had secured the nomination for the North Wiltshire seat because, in the interview, I refused to nominate an alternative to our then Prime Minister John Major, whereas my opponent, Desmond Swayne openly touted John Redwood! But there comes a time when the personality at the top of the party needs to change and this is it. The Party Conference in October needs a fresh approach. We need a new leader, who by then will have successfully negotiated our departure from the EU and who can offer a new idea for governing Britain. A quick pencil and paper exercise tells me that there are currently twenty-three possible leadership contenders. I will interview them all.
Second, it is now clear that the Conservative Party and the DUP will not pass the Withdrawal Agreement as printed, yet it is plain that the EU will not change it. Is this the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object? Perhaps not. However, the Political Statement which is attached to it, is negotiable, and I hope that a new and dynamic leader would be able to take advantage of that wiggle room to reunite the party and crucially bring the DUP with him or her.
Third, the half-hearted negotiations with the Labour Party are not only disgraceful but also pointless. Jeremy Corbyn, governed as he is by the hard left Momentum Group, wants nothing other than a General Election. He is hardly likely to throw a life belt to the drowning Mrs May. And if per chance she gave in to his demands, acceding for example to full membership of the Customs Union, alignment to the Single Market and perhaps a second referendum, then she would lose any residual support in the Conservative Party. In the vote last week to extend Article 50 for example, 98 Conservatives voted against a three line whip, and a further 80 abstained, including 4 Cabinet ministers and the Deputy Chief Whip. That means that she only achieved a majority on the back of support from Labour and other opposition parties, with only 31% of her backing coming from 131 Conservative MPs. If that were to be repeated, with a Conservative PM only achieving something with the support of Labour, then her credibility as leader of the Conservative Party would once and for all be shot.
Fourth, it now looks as if we are going to have to take part in the EU elections, at enormous cost and for precious little purpose. My own view is that we should field no Conservative candidates at all, leaving the field open to various extreme Brexiteer parties who would then no doubt make it their business to demonstrate to the EU Parliament why they should be so keen to get rid of us.
It is all a mess and we can only start to rebuild respect for this Conservative Government and indeed for Parliament under a new Prime Minister. He or she must remember that politics is the art of the possible and seek to achieve what presently seems to be impossible, namely some sort of consensus within the Conservative Party.