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Another Cabinet calamity, says Chris Moncrieff

By Chris Moncrieff | In-depth | Published:

n Another day, another Cabinet calamity. You might well have thought things could hardly have got any worse for the Prime Minister, after losing two Cabinet ministers within the space of a week, and that a period of calm might descend on our political leaders. But, you’d be wrong.

Johnson and Gove

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove, not so long ago at daggers drawn, have apparently conspired together to write an explosive letter to the Prime Minister, allegedly dictating terms for a hard Brexit.

This memorandum also reportedly urges her to crack down on those ministers who do not agree with this approach, including the Chancellor Philip Hammond and those Whitehall civil service mandarins who share Hammond’s view and are claimed to be doing their utmost to wreck Brexit.

I cannot believe that the Prime Minister will welcome this explosive new development, even if she is sympathetic to some of the views in it.

The Cabinet does not exactly resemble a vicarage garden party as it is.

This could transform the Cabinet into a sackful of brawling ferrets.

Perhaps Messrs Johnson and Gove believe this kind of action might devolve to their credit when the time comes for a Tory leadership battle. Both are desperately ambitious.

I doubt it, though.

But the big question the British voter will be asking is, whether, after all these shenanigans, these two will have enough time left to do what the taxpayer pays them to do – run their departments.

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n To put it at its most crude: What on earth did Priti Patel think she was playing at?

The deposed International Development Secretary cannot blame anyone but herself for her ignominious downfall – which is surprising because she has been moving in political circles at a high level for some time, and should have known the ropes.

For instance, you don’t go abroad on holiday and hold unauthorised talks with overseas political leaders. That can only be done with the express approval of and/or instructions from the Prime Minister herself.

And before she became an MP, Patel was a very senior Conservative Party press officer.

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So it is baffling that she seemed to have failed to take on board the diligence and skill of the media to expose the shortcomings of ministers.

There is nothing more public than a secret meeting.

So, sad to say, she got what she deserved.

She is a talented and likeable person and it would be good to see her back in office sometime.

But I fear some considerable time will have to elapse before that can happen.

n Some two yeas ago, many members of both the Labour and Conservative Parties suspected the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader would drive his party into doom and destruction. The Tories were positively gleeful.

How things have changed. Corbyn’s unexpectedly impressive performance at the last general election, has changed everyone’s views.

Gordon Brown has described Corbyn as a phenomenon, while the Tories fear the perils that could lie ahead for them.

Anyone who thinks the Tory fears are groundless, needs to think again.

Chris Moncrieff

By Chris Moncrieff

Journalist and former political editor of the Press Association

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