When she became Prime Minister in 2016, May made a series of pledges about the kind of Brexit she wanted. In subsequent speeches she fleshed out that vision. The Conservative Party was broadly united. Sure, Remainers would have preferred to remain, and Brexiteers would have preferred a more buccaneering Brexit, but this was a compromise that could work for all.
But she did not act as she had promised to. Inside government, she had cut out the Brexiteers in pursuit of a secret plan that few knew of. Whilst DExEU prepared a plan that matched her stated aims, May produced the Chequers Plan which did not.
In July last year Brexiteers warned that the Chequers Plan was unacceptable. They used all means available to them, except a leadership challenge, to get it spiked. Resignations, alternative plans, media pressures, honest calculations of the numbers of rebels.
May pushed on. The Withdrawal Agreement (WA) was the outcome.
When that was published Brexiteers did what they could to get it spiked. More resignations, more time spent explaining alternatives, more honest calculations of the numbers of rebels.
It didn’t work. May pushed on. Brexiteers forced an internal party confidence vote. May promised legally binding reassurances on the backstop aspect of the WA. She won, and pushed on.
Well, sort of. Actually she just delayed last night’s rejection of the WA by six weeks, and achieved nothing in the mean time. The letter she got from the EU did nothing to change the WA. As such, it was not the legally binding assurances she had promised in order to stay on as PM.
Last night she lost the WA vote by an historic number. 117 of her own MPs voted against her, some using their vote to resign from the government.
And yet today I see various people arguing that those Brexiteers who voted against the WA are various shades of irresponsible, unreasonable and idiotic, putting Brexit and the country at great risk in pursuit of unrealistic ends.
But when I trace the steps that brought us to this point and then read those outraged comments about Brexiteers, I simply think: are you out of your tree!? How can you not see that May’s handling of this whole process has inevitably brought us to this point? Has party loyalty blinded you to reality? Or do you know the truth but your political ambitions are preventing you from being honest?
The simple truth is that one person is responsible for this mess, and she is not named Jacob, David, Boris, Steve, Dominic, Esther, Sir Bill, nor Owen.
It is all down to Theresa May. She double-dealt against her own Ministers. She promised the electorate one thing, then tried to force through another. She made promises in order to stay on as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, and then didn’t keep them. She ignored warnings, advice, and alternatives in the bloody-minded pursuit of her own plan. Trying to push the blame for this situation on to others – the ERG, the DUP, even the Labour Party – is, quite simply, shirking her responsibility.