TO adapt a quote from Oscar Wilde – to lose one Cabinet Minister in a week may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.
This week International Development Secretary Priti Patel followed Defence Secretary Michael Fallon out of the exit door to leave Theresa May’s beleaguered administration in turmoil.
Make no mistake, the Government is mired in deep crisis, seemingly reeling from one self-inflicted blunder to the next. Not since the final days of John Major’s benighted ‘Back to Basics’ administration can I recall such a sense of unending crisis and impending doom.
No doubt, now that Patel has finally gone, Government critics will concentrate their fire on the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and May’s effective deputy Damian Green. If they are pulled down, Theresa May will look increasingly vulnerable.
The critics will do absolutely anything to wound the Prime Minister. The aim is clear – to destroy the Government and trigger yet another General Election which, if current polls are to believed, would usher in an extreme-left government led by Jeremy Corbyn and his Marxist-sympathising shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
That is what you would expect from an Opposition – but in this case they are being supported in their acts of sabotage by a great many people who should really know better. More on that later.
First, there is a distinct danger of hysteria taking over here – so let us pause for breath and take a sober look at the latest crisis.
Patel was certainly wrong to run her own freelance diplomatic policy – without the knowledge of Number 10 or the Foreign Office – and it is absolutely right for her to go, especially as it appears she has been less than frank with the Prime Minister about her contacts with Israeli officials.
But to say she wanted to funnel British aid to the Israeli army – as many news organisations have alleged – is hugely misleading.
In truth the Israeli Defence Force runs a field hospital on the Golan Heights as a humanitarian gesture towards Syrians escaping that country’s brutal civil war.
Considering that the Syrians have spent almost 70 years trying to destroy Israel and murder its citizens, this is a remarkably compassionate stance by the tiny Jewish state, which, let us never forget, is the Middle East’s only democracy. So Patel’s motivation was to use British aid to help desperate Syrian refugees – which seems to me to be a better use of taxpayer funds than buying gold-plated Lear Jets for blood-soaked African dictators.
But back to the plotters. There is little doubt that the constant attacks on Mrs May are motivated at least in part by a desire on behalf of die-hard Remoaners to stop Brexit and thwart the will of 17.4 million people expressed in the biggest democratic mandate in British history.
Only last week, for example, three Remoaners in chief – Kenneth Clarke, Nick Clegg and Lord Adonis – were spotted skulking around Brussels.
Dubbing themselves “the rebels”, they admitted they had held talks with the EU chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. You don’t need to be a genius to guess what was discussed.
It might be going too far to describe such underhand skullduggery as treachery, but by setting up a sort of “shadow negotiation” with the EU, they are certainly undermining the Government and acting against the interests of the British people.
And the crucial point is that every time the Remoaners attack Mrs May and undermine the British position, they encourage Barnier and his team to be ever more obstinate and intransient.
That is precisely why the talks have stalled so badly. If in contrast Britain stood united, we would quickly persuade the EU to offer a reasonable trade deal which, let us not forget, is beneficial to both sides.
The reason Clegg and co behave in such a damaging way is because they have a ridiculous fantasy that Brexit can be reversed and the democratic will of the people simply ignored.
For the good of the country – and of democracy – we simply cannot let that happen. May and her team need to steady the ship and be absolutely steadfast and single-minded in delivering the clean-break Brexit demanded by British voters.
And that is going to take the sort of iron discipline among Conservatives that sadly has not been much in evidence so far.