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Wednesday 24 April 2019

Iconic no-nonsense Conservative, Ann Widdecombe has made the remarkable, not to mention very welcome decision to join the Brexit Party, standing as a candidate in the South West at next month’s European elections.

“In early May I shall do what I have always done since I first got the vote fifty years ago, and put my cross by the Conservative candidate in the local elections – but a couple of weeks later on May 23 I shall do what I have never done and cast my vote for a different party,” Widdecombe told the Express.

“Nay, I am going further than that: I am standing for the Brexit Party in order that I may campaign vigorously and convince my fellow voters that this time it is imperative to fire a very loud warning shot across the bows of the parties they normally support.”

The 1922 Committee meet again today to discuss revising rules to enable Theresa May’s imminent departure (see yesterday’s Brexit Brunch). Under current party rules, May cannot face another vote of no confidence until December.

However, according to Newsnight, the committee isn’t as assertive as we’d like to think. The balance in favour of leaving the prime minister alone is delicately tipped in her favour, even as she wreaks havoc with Brexit and a popular choice in Boris Johnson lies in the wings, waiting to galvanise the electorate – not that he should be easily forgiven for caving in and backing May’s deal last month.

Meanwhile, a petition among association chairmen for May to “consider her position and resign” has now reached the 65-signature threshold. ConservativeHome reveal CCHQ have been notified. Chairman of the National Convention, Andrew Sharpe will call an extraordinary meeting where the motion will be debated.

The meeting will take place no less than 28 days after it is announced, but there is no obligation to call it sooner rather than later. Sharpe will no doubt be put under tremendous pressure to delay the meeting while CCHQ busily tries to the stock the meeting with May loyalists. Up to 800 party members will be permitted to attend.

The motion will not be binding if it passes, but it will most certainly send a shockwave through Number 10. Just one seismic event among many: Widdecombe’s honourable defection, the Brexit Party’s impending victory, and other disasters the Labour party is likely to trigger in its negotiations with Number 10.

The government is in on the act, planning yet another self-inflicted catastrophe. According to the Sun, May is being advised by a cluster of cabinet ministers to table the EU withdrawal bill, which is intended to succeed the meaningful vote, as a desperate attempt to build some momentum. Given that the meaningful vote has failed three times, there is absolutely no indication the bill will gain a majority, spelling yet more humiliation for the government.

“We’ve got to do something,” says a senior Tory minister. “Being seen to do nothing and allowing Brexit just to drift is killing us out there on the doorstep. Talks with Labour are going nowhere, and were never going to.”

The Sun claims Sajid Javid and Amber Rudd are behind the idea. Senior aides are also in on the act. “We know things can’t go on as they are until the autumn,” a Downing Street advisor tells the FT.

The Truth is, with May’s damn deal dead, but the Tory leadership completely against leaving the EU without terms (the nearest thing to what we actually voted for), they have gifted Labour a massive opportunity to drive them into the ground, forcing a general election that they would expect to win, or at least for the Tories to lose.

Aside from royally cocking up Brexit, May’s administration is making Jeremy Corbyn look like a half (we stress half) decent option to many swing voters. That is some accomplishment.

Jokes aside, the Spectator hypothesize that some Tory MPs would be content with losing the next election, using it as an opportunity to regroup and rediscover the conservatism the nation is crying out for, but faced with a deluded Marxist in the shape of Corbyn, that’s just not an option.

Leaving the EU with a bad deal was supposedly not an option. It turned out to be the only prospect the government was willing to consider. Most of Westminster wills it, and the majority of those who don’t are vying to Remain and pretend the referendum never happened.

Speaking to Newsnight, Widdecombe described May as the worst prime minister since Anthony Eden, adding “We’ve got the worst leader of the opposition in the entire history of the Labour party. And we’ve got the worst Parliament since Oliver Cromwell.”

She was being charitable.