Sensible Tories shouldn’t follow Rudd into Johnson’s cabinet

by Hugo Dixon | 14.07.2019

Amber Rudd says being willing to quit the EU without a deal should be part of our “leverage” in talks with the bloc. That may keep her in the Cabinet if Boris Johnson becomes prime minister next week, as expected. After all, he has insisted that Cabinet members sign up to the current October 31 deadline for leaving the EU, even if that means crashing out without a deal.

Fortunately, sensible Cabinet heavy-hitters are taking a different line. The so-called Gaukward squad – David Gauke, Philip Hammond, David Lidington, Rory Stewart and Greg Clark – are all expected to refuse to serve under Johnson. They would carry on the fight against a no-deal Brexit from the backbenches.

Other Tory MPs who want the country to avoid disaster would be wise to follow the Gaukward squad’s lead rather than Rudd’s. They will have more leverage from outside government than from a ministerial position.

The situation is different from the spring time when ministers had a lot of leverage over Theresa May by being able to threaten to resign or vote against a no-deal Brexit. Rudd was one of the ring-leaders. Her battles helped stop the country crashing out of the EU. It made sense then to be at the top table.

But Rudd won’t be able to play the same card again if Johnson keeps her in his Cabinet. After all, she has already accepted that we may leave on October 31 even if that means plummeting into the abyss. So she won’t be able to threaten to resign to stop “no deal”.

By contrast, the Gaukward squad will be able to do all sorts of things to frustrate a no-deal Brexit. They will be able to vote against the government’s plan, amend legislation or come up with innovative tactics, such as the Chancellor’s idea of a “sit-in” if Johnson seeks to suspend Parliament.

The rebels could even, in extremis, join the opposition in a vote of no confidence. They will also be able to threaten to do this – and a credible threat may be all that’s required to force Johnson to swerve. Rather than lose a vote of no confidence and face an election, he may decide it’s better to ask the people in a referendum whether they prefer to stay in the EU than crash out.

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2 Responses to “Sensible Tories shouldn’t follow Rudd into Johnson’s cabinet”

  • Very disappointed with Amber Rudd and her cynical courting of Johnson. I had my doubts about her after some of her pronouncements as Home Secretary, they are now confirmed by the way she has accepted no-deal as an acceptable outcome. Shameful