by Kevin Meagher
It’s pretty clear from her interview with Andrew Marr yesterday morning that defence minister Penny Mordaunt didn’t actually understand that individual Member States can veto the accession of new applicants to the EU, like Turkey.
A tad embarrassing, perhaps, for a government minister and David Cameron wasted no time in correcting her:
‘Let me be clear. Britain and every other country in the European Union has a veto on another country joining. That is a fact. The fact that the Leave campaign are getting things as straightforward as this wrong, I think should call into question their whole judgement in making the bigger argument about leaving the EU.’
As a vignette, it tells us that fact-checking left the building some time ago as far as this referendum is concerned and that tempers inside the Conservative party are shredded.
However it is pro-European Tories like Cameron and Osborne that will pay a heavy price for the tone of this referendum. Having failed to get anything resembling the deal he promised, the Prime Minister is now despairing at the failure of the polls to decisively shift for Remain.
Famed for his fits of pique, his answer is to let slip the dogs of war. So threats of recession, war, plague and famine are trotted out daily by a loyal army of straight-faced supplicants, like Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England and any number of corporate factotums, keen to sidle up to Downing Street for future preferment.
Unfortunately for him, the party’s grassroots remains implacably hostile to the EU. All those years when ambitious Tories could sidle up to their local members, pat them on the head and throw out a few Euro-bashing lines, safe in the knowledge that it all meant nothing, are over. With boundary changes approaching, local associations will demand to know their prospective MPs voted the ‘right’ way on the referendum.
Perhaps it’s understandable that David Cameron is furious with Mordaunt: she’s the future of the Conservative party, not him.
Some say she may lose her job for defying Cameron and emerging as one of the government’s staunchest Eurosceptics, but Cameron and Osborne will need to sue for peace and won’t have the strength to sack her.
If they do, she goes to the gallows as a heroine to the cause. But as we’ve seen with the Labour party, it is no bad thing to play the long game and emerge as a darling of the grassroots.
After all, as Talleyrand was said to have quipped, ‘treason is a matter of dates.’
Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut