When I was a kid, around this time of year we’d always get a copy of something called Old Moore’s Almanack. This was a curiously antique affair even then, with its astrological charts and olde-worlde typefaces, purporting to predict world affairs, horse racing results and football scores for the year ahead.
Obviously, it promised riches to its readers, if they chose to ignore the obvious flaw that anyone could get their hands on this treasury of precognition for a half a crown or something.
With that necessary caution entered, I’d like to entertain you with some wild predictions of my own, in Old O’Grady’s Annual Almanack for 2019.
First, Jacob Rees-Mogg will be chancellor the Exchequer in July. This is because of services rendered in getting Theresa May’s Brexit “deal” over the line. As boss man of the sceptic bloc the European Research Group (ERG), he could do it – at a price.
For Moggster watchers the last few weeks have been fascinating. In what seems a long-forgotten world now, he organised a vote of no confidence in the prime minister as Tory leader, a rare event and a distraction.
When she actually won, he was on all available channels demanding she quit anyway. An example: “She ought to go and see the Queen urgently and resign.” But, a mere five days on, last Monday he had a sweeter tune: “May I congratulate the prime minister on winning the confidence of the Conservative members in this House last week, and assure her that she therefore commands my confidence too?”
What happened to Rees-Mogg? A “secret” meeting with the prime minister and the leaders of his ERG. Nothing so crude as a deal or political bribery would have been transacted, but perhaps a general feeling that if they want to avoid a second referendum vote or a Corbyn government, they will need to unite.
After 29 March and all the nastiness has passed, May will be able to magnanimous about bringing all parts of her fractured party together, with appropriate jobs in government for men and women of talent.
A job for Rees-Mogg then, and HM Treasury would suit him well, even if he doesn’t quite make it to Number 11. Mind you, she is desperate and will dish out any number of jobs, knighthoods and gongs to save her deal. He’s on his way.
Second, partly by the same token, May will get her deal through. The other calculation here is that pro-Remainers such as Vince Cable and Chuka Umunna will, in the end, blink when faced with a disastrous “no deal” Brexit.
They are right to want a second Final Say vote, and may get one in the end – but the government has so much control over events and the parliamentary timetable you have to wonder if they could get legislation passed to repeal the Article 50 laws plus a new bill for a fresh democratic mandate.
Time is short; May is indeed running the clock down; and Jeremy Corbyn seems more opposed than ever to a People’s Vote and wants explicitly to press on with Brexit.
Third, and the last consequence, Corbyn will have been ousted by a deeply disillusioned party membership. For it is plain to see that for many of his new young supporters Brexit is an unthinkable anathema.
They are not interested in socialism in one country and are sensible enough to understand the imperatives of free and fair international trade. When Corbyn betrays them and their conference policy, he will be despised and removed with hardly a second thought.
He was supposed to be the servant of his party: now he is choosing to ignore it, when it suits him, just like all his predecessors. The unions cannot save him from a mass revolt. There is plenty of talent on the front bench and experience on the back benches to reconstruct a fresh shadow cabinet under a pro-European leader.
He’ll be washed up by the party conference, say by October. The activists’ T-shirts used to say “Love Corbyn, Hate Brexit”. What do they do when they realise Corbyn = Brexit? Hate him, of course. Emily Thornberry will succeed Corbyn with some generous, if mildly hypocritical, words of thanks. Then the rebuilding of Labour can begin.
See you next year.
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