On this big day let’s remember Ken Clarke’s assessment of TMay just before she won the leadership

July 6th, 2018

The “bloody difficult woman” is tough for all sides to deal with

One of the great nuggets that came out of the post Brexit referendum CON leadership contest was the above unguarded conversation between Ken Clarke and Malcolm Rifkind captured by Sky News when they thought the cameras were off them.

Clarke’s descriptions of some of the leading figures who will be battling it out at Chequers today appear to be spot on particularly his observations on the woman who was to become Prime Minister and is now seeking to get some form of agreement on the stance to take on the Brexit talks.

    The point, of course, is that once Theresa May has taken a view she sticks to it tenaciously and becomes very difficult to shift.

Those who do not agree with what is being proposed are going to find it very difficult dealing with the Prime Minister and, of course, they know it. Also holding the gathering at Chequers, her home turf, and the insistence that the meeting should go on until agreement is reached will help her.

My reading is that she attaches less importance to the actual form of Brexit than that the UK should leave the EU on March 29th next year as planned. So much can be pushed into the transition period to be resolved later. The latest Betfair market on this happening by that date has it at a 58% probability.

The task of the hardliners is being made more challenging by the spate of big decisions coming out of the big corporations in anticipation of the UK leaving the EU. The more bleak this looks the tougher it becomes to argue for a hard Brexit. There’s little doubt that Johnson’s widely reported “fuck business” comment has undermined his position.

Maybe historians will look back at today and deem it to be Theresa’s finest hour.

Mike Smithson