Caroline Lucas’s all-women cabinet is a terrible idea that makes me despair for the campaign to stop no-deal Brexit

However risible they are, the Leavers have a simple plan that they are executing to perfection. The Green Party leader’s bizarre response shows the Remain side is losing

Sean O'Grady
Monday 12 August 2019 15:07
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Christian Broughton & Caroline Lucas speak at People's Vote

Say what you like about Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove, but – all men – they do possess a certain ruthless quality, or at least they give a good impression of it, which is just as good. Misguided, yes, but they have a clear policy goal, “do or die” Brexit on 31 October. Everyone knows it. Everyone understands it. Most of us think it is nuts. But no-one can call them fuzzy.

The gang also has a political strategy – deliver Brexit, first; do some other populist stuff; defeat Corbyn at a general election – and spend now, pay later for the police and the schools. They have the advantages of incumbency. They can command the media by launching real initiatives with real consequences, not just make speeches.

The Brexit gang have the civil service at their disposal, and intend to use it by achieving Brexit “by all means necessary” – chilling phrase. For tactics, they’ll play any dirty tricks. They’re ready to spend £100m on Brexit publicity, political propaganda paid for by the taxpayer, including a ludicrous “rebuttal unit”. They are prepared to bully the courts, the Commons speaker and HM the Queen to get their way.

These guys, in other words, know what they want and how they are going to get it.

And what do the forces of Final Say, or Remain, of sanity have?

Today they have the Caroline Lucas Green plan for an all-female government of national unity. So sisterly and inclusive is her proposal that she neglected to include Diane Abbott, apparently on the grounds that Ms Abbott is “not one of the leaders” in UK politics, although Emily Thornberry, also a senior shadow spokesperson but with no more seniority than Abbott, does qualify for the premiership. Diane has told them to get lost, and I don’t blame her.

Ms Lucas wants Nicola Sturgeon to be in the new cabinet, though Ms Sturgeon has a job already and doesn’t sit in the House of Commons. That is not an absolute bar, but it does mean she would not be accountable to parliament. Ms Sturgeon could be made Baroness Sturgeon for these purposes, but the SNP boycotts the House of Lords so that wouldn’t work either.

The rest, as they say, is risible.

I wonder if you can sense my exasperation. Maybe it mirrors your own. Yes, the Brexit forces are divided, between the two old Leave campaigns, the Johnsonites and the Farageists, but for now the Johnsonites have no need to make deals with the Brexit Party, because there won’t be an election pre-Brexit. As I say, there is clear-headed plan at work in government, though it is wildly against the national interest, and deeply undemocratic.

The real disarray is in the ranks of those who oppose no-deal Brexit. What do they want?

Some hanker after the May deal, like Philip Hammond, Stephen Kinnock and, presumably Ms May herself. Others want a Final Say referendum and would accept a Leave result, like many in the Labour Party. Others demand we Remain in the EU no matter what, as Ms Swinson appears to (though Layla Moran maybe less so). That is a bit of a problem.

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Even more of a problem is the taxonomy of the beast known as the GNU – government of national unity: Pretty disunited even at this stage. Labour say they must have Jeremy Corbyn as PM and Ms Abbott makes disparaging references to Ramsay MacDonald (the unfortunate precedent of 1931 that smashed the Labour Party). Other Labour figures would gladly embrace the GNU and ditch Jezza.

Ms Swinson says she won’t accept Mr Corbyn as PM. The Scot Nats demand a second referendum on Scottish independence in return for a second referendum on the EU. John McDonnell thinks that is OK; his colleagues Richard Leonard, Labour’s Scottish leader, and deputy leader Tom Watson think not.

Into which vacuum enters Ms Lucas and her government of female unity. It is predicated on the ludicrous notion that women are better at being all reasonable and comprising. I see. Anyone remember Theresa May? She was the “bloody difficult woman” who was so stubborn about Brexit red lines she lost her job over it. Maggie Thatcher – the lady’s not for turning and famously divisive? Barbara Castle, who treated Tories like vermin and some on her own side too? Margaret Beckett? Esther McVey? Edwina Currie? Priti Patel? Elizabeth I? Boudicca? None were or are what you’d call natural conciliators. Indeed when I’ve heard Ms Lucas demanding that we all reduce our air travel and banging the table about the climate emergency she doesn’t sound all that moderate either.

It’s a myth about women that they are; the same “Lehman Sisters” fallacy that suggests that global financial crises are triggered by an excess not of cheap money but of testosterone.

Ms Lucas says the Peace Women in Northern Ireland helped bring peace to the province. It’s true that they were inspirational leaders from the 1970s onwards, but the historic settlement only came when the malest of the male – Ian Paisley, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness decided the game was up for the war. Mo Mowlam did a superb job in calming and cajoling and corralling these belligerent blokes towards sanity, but it was they who decided to make peace.

I digress, and, almost despair. The one thing we all know is that there is no majority in parliament for no-deal Brexit, and probably not in the country either. Mr Johnson and his gang are terrified of testing opinion, either in the Commons or the country. They will do anything and everything to avoid doing so, and they just seem more deadly serious about the task than their opponents, who seem, to borrow a phrase, like stone cold losers, are squabbling and divided. Including, as it happens, those who happen to be female.

Where is the Remainers’ Dominic Cummings? Where is she?

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