, 11 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
May failed as PM, but she faced a formidable task: to translate the abstract fantasies of the Leave campaign into achievable policy, without wrecking the economy, the Union or the NI peace process. And to do so at a time when a core constitutional principle had broken down.THREAD
2. One of the most important safeguards of democratic politics is the principle of "responsible government": that the winning side in an election, by taking office, accepts "responsibility" for delivering its promises. It is then held to account by the public at the next election
3. The 2016 referendum drove a bulldozer through that model. Leavers could promise the earth, safe in the knowledge they wouldn't have to deliver it. They needn't admit to trade-offs, because others would be making them. And when things went wrong, they could blame someone else.
4. Three years on, we're still stuck in the politics of "irresponsibility", in which Johnson & Farage waft around hailing the cost-free deal they would allegedly have struck, Labour prates about a "Brexit for jobs", while MPs pass fantasy motions like "the Brady Amendment".
5. May's actions as PM encouraged that drift. She endorsed the worst fantasies of the Leave campaign, set "red lines" that she knew she could not keep, and did more than anyone to legitimise a "no deal" Brexit. Instead of forcing MPs to share responsibility, she locked them out.
6. Yet there is some truth in her claim that she delivered what she had promised: a negotiated Brexit that would have terminated British membership in an orderly fashion. Her problem was that this could never live up to the Platonic ideal of Brexit that she herself had endorsed.
7. There is also some justice in the complaint she has made consistently since January: that MPs declined to take responsibility for any other outcome, beyond rejecting the one she put forward. But here we return to the collapse of political responsibility, & her own role in that
8. By every principle of parliamentary govt, May should have resigned in January after the defeat of the Withdrawal Agreement. By staying in office, she made voting down the Agreement a consequence-free act. None of her critics had to take any responsibility for an alternative.
9. If she had resigned, either a new Tory leader, more acceptable to the ERG, or a Corbyn government would have had to take over negotiating Brexit. They would have had to "take responsibility" for a specific line of policy, rather than hiding behind vague & fantastical slogans.
10. Boris Johnson would have to take responsibility for negotiating a deal, rather than blustering from his armchair at the Daily Telegraph. A Labour government could no longer have sat on the fence, offering all things to all people. Political choice would have become more real.
11. British politics since 2016 has been a parade of illusions, in which few of its participants have had to make any meaningful choices. And the one outcome that happens automatically, in the absence of positive choice, is "No Deal". The doomsday clock ticks closer to midnight.
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