I’m watching the Sky News chyron scroll past. Jeremy Corbyn says he ‘looks forward’ to talks with PM. Yeah, I’ll bet.
There are several possibilities of motives and outcomes attached to this bipartisan volt face. May might have had a sudden epiphany that the frothing, raving ERG really didn’t have the best interests of the nation at heart and, golly-oh-gee-oh-gosh, it might be time to engage with somebody more congenial. I mean, if you find yourself stuck with a group who can’t be trusted for a few hours not to trash talk you to the extent that you need to bag and tag their phones like a prison intake officer, you need new friends. May’s cabinet has already printed out her P45. She didn’t have much reason to keep people-pleasing the tin foil helmet brigade.
May might also have come to the belated conclusion that, her fate sealed, she didn’t fancy being THE WORST PRIME MINISTER IN BRITISH HISTORY EVER. Modest by nature, that honorific had to hurt. So, when your predecessor hands you a shit sandwich and your mates won’t share it, best look for someone who doesn’t mind a bit of muck on his hands. Don’t forget the marmalade, Jez!
The other possibility is that May has played a blinder. So desperate is Corbyn to look Prime Ministerial that she has appealed to that vanity to lure him into taking the shit sandwich, eating it and waving the wrapper at a grateful nation from the doorway of the Brussels flight and announcing Brexit in our time. May can watch the display from the tarmac with her hamper of chicken lasagne and boiled spuds.
From a strategic point of view, if you are pushing Brexit with the zeal of a convert, it is pretty obvious to team up with the guy who has spent his undistinguished career calling the EU a capitalist club and dreaming of the day we could leave it and NATO and the ECJ and all the other institutions with initials. May and Corbyn can sit down, have a cup of tea and agree that the EU is a bit crap. Job done!
The only ‘Peter Bone’ of contention might be to whom we attribute this mutually assured Brexit. May is probably banking on spreading the blame for what she must surely know is an extinction level event for the economy. If Corbyn’s fingerprints are on it too, posterity might chose a kinder label for her. Or, she might have surmised that LOTO is too thick to realise that he’s just been offered the wheel in the getaway car. And a shit sandwich.
What Corbyn derives, other than legitimacy for his deeply held conviction - in complete opposition to most of the PLP and party membership, his party manifesto and the founding Labour principle of internationalism - is everybloodything he wants. Corbyn must have been cock-a-hoop to get that call from Number 10. No more constructive ambiguity. No more shrugging at his MPs who enquire why the whip doesn’t apply to his mates. No more will he have to mumble People’s Vote under his breath after his blather about jobs first, protecting workers’ rights and how he could do Brexit soooooooo much better than the other lot. He can just pitch up, cross his arms, scowl and leave safe in the knowledge that Brexit will happen and when it’s a national nightmare he can claim that it would have all been fine and dandy if it had been called Lexit. He can be Prime Minister of whatever survives the wreck. If that’s cockroaches and Seamus Milne, he’ll take it.
Corbyn’s fondest wish all along has been to be released from the EU to create his workers paradise built on debt and products we can’t trade, his New Jerusalem without Jews, his corrective and pure Marxist vision made real in an industrialised Britain as its author intended. And the EU wouldn’t have any right to interfere. Currency controls. Tick! Fixed Term Parliaments Act. Gone! Puppet editors installed to ensure friendly media coverage. Huzzah!
Who needs a People’s Vote when you are the embodiment of the will of the People! Am I right?
Really, all that has happened over the past twenty-four hours is that poor, lonely, embattled Theresa May has made common cause with the one man with less olfactory acuity than she. Not only will Corbyn share that shit sandwich, he’ll offer May his allotment shovel to keep digging for more victory.
Rebecca Strom Trenner