Some weeks ago I suggested the biggest threat to the government’s survival wasn’t Corbyn’s popularity or a bungled Brexit, but the inevitable sense of drift and decay that comes to a government after a long period in office. I did not, however, realise that it would come so soon.
Even before the departures of defence secretary Michael Fallon and international development secretary Priti Patel (both of whom fell amid scandal), there was a clear sense that Theresa May lacked both authority and purpose. The drama of the last seven days has saddled a weak government with a heavy load.
Two immediate thoughts come to mind. Firstly, one must consider the impact of this on Brexit negotiations. Only a fool would suggest that the cracks in this government don’t look like gaping chasms through the eyes of EU officials. While David Davis remains somewhat distant from the Westminster merry-go-round, it’s hard for Theresa May to pretend she’s at the head of a united and disciplined government. Remain-backing MPs have been meeting Michel Barnier, doubtless reporting on May’s weak spots.
The second point to consider, on a somewhat lighter note, is that we shouldn’t underestimate the Tory party’s capacity to refresh and renew itself. There is no appetite to do this yet (via a new leader) as fear of another election is a stronger force than any feelings of ill-will towards May. But when the time comes, in two years, Tory MPs can move quickly to install a new leader with a fresh agenda. The risk is that a future leadership election turns into a beauty parade, with a dozen or so hopefuls fancying their chances. But to get to that point, the party has to do more than just survive. Fresh energy may yet be injected by moving to formal trade talks with the EU and via a bold, reforming Budget. At the moment, neither of these developments can be taken for certain.
LSE row is one to watch
The departure of Xavier Rolet as chief executive of the London Stock Exchange appeared amicable when announced, but a mighty row has since engulfed the institution. Shareholder Sir Chris Hohn has refused to accept Rolet’s departure and has called a vote on ousting LSE chairman Donald Bryon. Brydon is unlikely to have moved against Rolet without having spoken to other big shareholders, but with the FCA now taking an interest and Hohn seeking blood and justice, this is one to watch.
Gaucho goings on are something to chew over
The latest goings on at the Gaucho restaurant chain provides plenty of meat for the City to chew over. The latest departure from the top team is chief exec Zeev Godik, who has been at the helm since founding the business in 1976. His departure (ousting, surely?) comes just a week after Luke Johnson stood down as chairman, replaced by ex-Asda boss Paul Mason. But beyond the musical chairs, it’s a tired brand. One name I hear mentioned as a possible saviour is M Restaurant chief Martin Williams...
Marxing the anniversary:
This week saw the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution of November 1917, and the occasion has been marked in a variety of ways. At one memorial event, a man declared “As revolutionaries and socialists we join this global commemoration.” Not Jeremy Corbyn, but one of his pals from the Socialist Party of Venezuela.
Closer to home, and in a fitting tribute to Marxist values, Bentley and Skinner, the high-end jewellers, hosted an exhibition of priceless works by the legendary Russian, Carl Fabergé.
Meanwhile, esteemed medical journal The Lancet turned a shade of red as the editor praised “Marxism’s call to engage”. Somebody call him a doctor!
By far my favourite response comes from Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, whose motion in parliament this week noted that the Bolshevik revolution demonstrated that “Communism is a murderous ideology, incompatible with liberty and dignity.”